Pennsylvania alleges Fulton County breached security of voting machines for second time

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) - A rural Pennsylvania county violated a court order when it allowed a forensics company to examine voting equipment in July, marking the county's second security breach of the machines, the state's top election official alleged in a court filing.

The latest alleged breach came to light last month when Fulton County filed a lawsuit against election equipment maker Dominion Voting Systems, citing purported issues discovered in an examination of the equipment by Speckin Forensics LLC.

In a Pennsylvania Supreme Court filing on Tuesday, lawyers for the Secretary of the Commonwealth said the county's move to grant access to the equipment violated the court's Jan. 27 injunction prohibiting third-party access to the machines.

"What is certain is that, in allowing Speckin to access and image the electronic voting machines in July 2022, Petitioners openly thumbed their noses at a clear and direct order of this Court," the lawyers wrote.

The lawyers asked for sanctions, including compensation of attorney fees, and for Fulton County officials, including Republican Commissioners Stuart Ulsh and Randy Bunch, to be held in civil contempt, a finding that could lead to fines.

Neither Ulsh nor Bunch responded to a request for comment.

Stefanie Lambert, a Detroit-based attorney representing the county, did not directly address the state's allegation about the court's injunction. She pointed to alleged security flaws highlighted in Speckin's report, and noted that the county has sued Dominion and no longer uses its machines.

The latest incident in Fulton, a solidly Republican county in south-central Pennsylvania, illustrates what some election-security experts describe as a growing insider threat from officials tasked with safeguarding the voting process.

Reuters has documented 24 incidents nationally since the 2020 election in which public officials and others are accused of breaching or attempting to breach election systems in an effort to uncover evidence to support former U.S. President Donald Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in the presidential election.

Such violations can expose confidential voter information and enable election-tampering by revealing security protocols.

The equipment examined by Speckin Forensics was decertified by the state last year after a December 2020 inspection of the machines by another technology company, Wake Technology Services Inc. That inspection violated state election codes barring unauthorized access to voting equipment, the state said.

Speckin, a Michigan-based company, took images of and analyzed six hard drives from the decertified equipment, according to the county's lawsuit filed last month against Dominion alleging breach of contract and other issues.

Dominion did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition to sanctions, lawyers for the state asked that the county be ordered to return the decertified machines to Dominion, which had leased the equipment to the county.

"Put simply, enough is enough. Petitioners have now twice breached the security of this voting system by turning its components over to unauthorized third parties," lawyers for the state wrote in the filing.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne; editing by Diane Craft)