Skip Navigation

Pennsylvania Republicans are no closer to re-inspecting Fulton County’s 2020 voting machines

The probe has been snared by court challenges, procedural headaches, and funding issues.

  • Sam Dunklau
Officials walk past unidentified equipment purportedly to be used in an inspection of Fulton County's voting machines on Jan. 14, 2022. The inspection did not proceed as planned after the Pa. Supreme Court ordered a halt.

Sam Dunklau / WITF

Officials walk past unidentified equipment purportedly to be used in an inspection of Fulton County's voting machines on Jan. 14, 2022. The inspection did not proceed as planned after the Pa. Supreme Court ordered a halt.

(Harrisburg) – A planned inspection of a rural Pennsylvania county’s voting equipment from 2020 remains on hold, despite a recent state court decision.

South-central Fulton County, encouraged by state Senate Republicans, has been seeking a second inspection of Dominion voting machines that it used during the 2020 election. But the county has been mired in court challenges. At issue is whether Fulton can have its Dominion machines inspected, and whether the Department of State can stop an inspection from happening. 

Supporters of the effort have not explained how such an inspection would be carried out and have not clearly explained why one is necessary more than a year and a half after the machines were used.

Former President Donald Trump, who won 85 percent of the vote there, continues to falsely assert that he lost to President Joe Biden because of systemic ballot fraud and procedural issues. There is no evidence of widespread fraud or machine tampering in Pennsylvania.

Fulton County’s latest examination was set to happen in January after Commonwealth Court sided with the county in a lawsuit – but the state Supreme Court halted it when the Department of State appealed the lower court’s decision. It’s been on pause ever since. 

“I’m just a little frustrated with the Supreme Court for their delay,” said Sen. Cris Dush (R-Cameron), who leads the Senate committee that has spearheaded the latest inspection effort.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Chairman of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, speaks during a hearing at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

Wake Technology Services, an IT firm, looked at Fulton County’s now-decertified Dominion voting machines early last year and found no evidence of voter fraud. That examination led the Department of State to decertify those machines last summer. Then-Acting Secretary Veronica Degraffenreid wrote that the agency could not verify whether “the impacted components…[were] safe to use in future elections.”

Fulton County sued over that decision in Commonwealth Court, arguing in part that Degraffenreid should have allowed commissioners to appeal. The county has since maintained that Wake did not “disturb or manipulate” the machines during its examination. It argues the state owes the county’s taxpayers money back after it had to pay to lease new voting machines.

The Department of State asked the appeals court to toss out that lawsuit on technical grounds, but Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt rejected the Department’s legal reasoning late last month. The agency now has a chance to file a new objection. The case itself has not been decided.

Dush said Republican backers of the years-long inspection effort will not be deterred by court challenges.

“As soon as the court clears things up [about the voting inspection], we’re ready to rock and roll,” he said. “We’re going to have to get some funding, but my experts are ready to move.”

Dush explained those “experts” are employees of the data security firm Envoy Sage. Senate Republicans agreed to pay that company $270,000 of taxpayer money late last year. The no-bid contract paid for election investigation work that included an inspection of Fulton County’s voting machines. Envoy Sage has no experience with elections.

That contract was extended for another six months in May, but without more funding. Dush did not say how much more money the company is asking for.

In the meantime, a final court decision in either case involving voting machine inspections will carry significant weight. Penn State Dickinson law professor Stanley Brand said the Commonwealth Court’s initial decision alone has opened a legal door for future efforts.

“It’s a case that’s on the books now, and others with similar motives to challenge the [election] system can use it to do so in other counties,” Brand said.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has not set a hearing date for the case challenging Fulton County’s inspection. 

Pa. Republican lawmakers and the U.S. Capitol attack

As part of WITF’s commitment to standing with facts, and because the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attempt to overthrow representative democracy in America, we are marking elected officials’ connections to the insurrection. Read more about this commitment.

Sen. Dush (R-Cameron) is among the several dozen state lawmakers who signed a letter asking Congress to delay certifying Pennsylvania’s 2020 election result, despite no evidence that would call that result into question.

That supported the election-fraud lie, which led to the attack on the Capitol.

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Up Next
Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans in Pennsylvania revive election bill over 2020 complaints