by Sharon Rondeau

(Jul. 11, 2021) — An announcement on Wednesday of a forensic election audit by Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano was followed by a directive from Commonwealth Department of State Acting Secretary Veronica Degraffenreid to refuse to provide election equipment from “third parties.”

In a press release and video statement, Mastriano, who chairs the state senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, asserted that irregularities occurring in the November 3, 2020 general election and 2021 primaries for municipal elections led him to open the audit with the purpose of restoring Pennsylvanians’ faith in the election process.

“Today, as Chair of the Intergovernmental Operations Committee, I issued letters to several counties requesting information and materials needed to conduct a forensic investigation of the 2020 General Election and the 2021 Primary,” Mastriano wrote in his press release. “We have asked these counties to respond by July 31st with a plan to comply. The counties represent different geographical regions of Pennsylvania and differing political makeups. Some are Republican while others are Democrat, which means that this will be a balanced investigation.”

“The case for a forensic investigation of the 2020 general election is evident to any unbiased observer,” the announcement continued. “This was the first election in Pennsylvania with ‘mass’ mail-in voting. In 2020, there were 2.7 million ballots cast by mail and absentee compared to about 263,000 absentee ballots cast in 2016. Many of these ballots were counted at off-site locations with little outside observation or oversight. Furthermore, mail ballots without signature verification were permitted to be counted across the Commonwealth.”

Pennsylvania’s legislature has a majority of Republicans in both chambers, while its governor, Tom Wolf, is a Democrat. “Governor Wolf and the Secretary of State refused to conduct any type of thorough investigation despite the concerns of millions of our citizens in the aftermath of the election and hundreds of affidavits alleging first-hand fraud, irregularities, and illegal behavior witnessed at polling places,” Mastriano wrote on page 2 of his announcement. “The closest thing to an investigation we got was a small so called ‘risk-limiting’ audit which consisted of a sample of only 45,000 randomly selected ballots from the November Election. Not nearly the type of investigation that was needed to determine any fraud, misconduct, or technical anomalies. This audit was conducted by the Department of State and did not include public input for outside observers.”

According to the Department of State’s website:

As currently required as part of the computation and canvass of returns, counties must complete the statistical sample required by law (25 P.S. § 3031.17).

A county board of elections is required to conduct a statistical sample of a random sample of at least two percent (2%) of the ballots cast or two thousand (2,000) ballots, whichever number is fewer.

In 2019 and 2020, the Department of State began to pilot additional risk-limiting audits at the county level and across the Commonwealth. One of the goals of these pilots was to begin to test models and best practices for enhanced post-election audits that are scientifically designed to strengthen election integrity, confirm the accuracy of election outcomes, and provide confidence to voters that their votes are being counted accurately.

Pennsylvania’s legislature has a majority of Republicans in both chambers, while its governor, Tom Wolf, is a Democrat. “Governor Wolf and the Secretary of State refused to conduct any type of thorough investigation despite the concerns of millions of our citizens in the aftermath of the election and hundreds of affidavits alleging first-hand fraud, irregularities, and illegal behavior witnessed at polling places,” Mastriano wrote on page 2 of his announcement. “The closest thing to an investigation we got was a small so called ‘risk-limiting’ audit which consisted of a sample of only 45,000 randomly selected ballots from the November Election. Not nearly the type of investigation that was needed to determine any fraud, misconduct, or technical anomalies. This audit was conducted by the Department of State and did not include public input for outside observers.”

In early February, then-Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar resigned, reportedly due to her failure to publicize a proposed state constitutional amendment prior to the 2020 election. “Wolf says this didn’t happen and now the process has to completely restart,” WLVR reported. The earliest changes could reappear on the ballot again spring of 2023.”

Boockvar’s acting replacement, Degraffenreid, was formerly “special elections advisor,” the report states.

Citing a 2013 presidential executive order, the Department of State directive, dated Thursday, July 8, states on page 1:

1. Background. The Secretary of the Commonwealth (“Secretary”) has duties pursuant to Article XI-A of the Pennsylvania Election Code, Sections 1101-A through 1122-A, to examine, evaluate and certify electronic voting systems. These reviews include verifying that the voting system conforms to federal and state law and any regulations or standards regarding confidentiality, security, accuracy, safety, reliability, usability, accessibility, durability, resiliency, and auditability. This is in addition to the Federal testing and certification undertaken by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

The U.S. Federal Government has played a leading role in efforts to ensure that security and resiliency of infrastructure fulfilling unique and crucial aspects in our society are identified and protected. Executive Order 13636, issued February 12, 2013, focuses on measures required for infrastructure security. In January 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security designated election infrastructure as critical infrastructure under the “Government Facilities” sector, one of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors in the United States. The Pennsylvania Department of State recognized the significance of this designation while it was developing the security standards for certification of voting systems to be used in Pennsylvania elections. As a result, during the Department’s examination, each voting system successfully completed penetration testing, access control testing and testing to ensure that every access point and all software and firmware are protected from tampering prior to certification by the Secretary.

As to “Third-Party Access to Electronic Voting Systems,” the directive states, “Demands have been made to allow third-party entities not directly involved with the conduct of elections to have access to electronic voting systems, specifically to review and copy the internal electronic, software, mechanical, logic, and related components of such systems. These demands have included the desire to image electronic memory spaces, to download operating systems and software, and to copy information that is internal and proprietary. Such access by third parties undermines chain of custody requirements and strict access limitations necessary to prevent both intentional and inadvertent tampering with electronic voting systems. It also jeopardizes the security and integrity of those systems and will negate the ability of electronic voting system vendors to affirmatively state that such systems continue to meet Commonwealth security standards, are validated as not posing security risks, and are able to be certified to perform as designed by the electronic voting system vendor and as certified by both the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the Department of State.”

The instruction as to “limiting” access, the directive states on page 2, “effective immediately,” is that “County Boards of Elections shall not provide physical, electronic, or internal access to third parties seeking to copy and/or conduct an examination of state-certified electronic voting systems, or any components of such systems, including but not limited to: election management software and systems, tabulators, scanners, counters, automatic tabulating equipment, voting devices, servers, ballot marking devices, paper ballot or ballot card printers, portable memory media devices (thumb drives, flash drives and the like), and any other hardware, software or devices being used as part of the election management system.”

Should third parties gain access to any of the equipment, the directive further states, “those pieces of voting equipment will be considered no longer secure or reliable to use in subsequent elections. As a result, the Department of State will withdraw the certification or use authority for those pieces of the county voting system” and the Department will not reimburse counties for replacement of the equipment in question.

“County Boards of Elections shall notify the Secretary immediately upon receipt of any written or verbal request for third-party access to an electronic voting system, or any component thereof,” the directive states under the subheading “Notice.” “In addition, County Boards of Elections and voting system vendors have an affirmative duty to notify the Secretary immediately of any breach or attempted breach in the chain of custody of its voting system components.”

On Saturday, Pennsylvania State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman issued a response to the Department of State’s directive:

The Department of State’s directive is an attack on the General Assembly’s power to review, investigate, and legislate in matters within its legislative authority, which includes Pennsylvania’s election system. The Legislature has clear authority – both statutorily and constitutionally – to provide oversight and issue subpoenas. This directive tramples those rights which were specifically put in place to prevent potential abuses and overreach by the Executive Branch.

This action is another troubling example of the Wolf Administration weaponizing and politicizing the agency that is directly responsible for overseeing free and fair elections. This sort of partisanship from an agency that is supposed to be a neutral arbiter is the reason why most Pennsylvanians lack faith in our election system, and it underscores the need for the kind of real and meaningful election reform that the Governor continues to deny the citizens of our Commonwealth.

This deeply partisan directive calls into question the ability of the Acting Secretary to serve as a neutral arbitrator on election matters, which will be a key consideration when the Senate considers her nomination in the fall.”

In June, 45th President of the United States Donald J. Trump, who claims the election was “rigged” and “stolen” from him in favor of Democrat Joe Biden, chided Corman for allegedly “fighting” a potential forensic audit in the Commonwealth. “Corman is fighting as though he were a Radical Left Democrat, saying that a Forensic Audit of Pennsylvania not take place,” Trump wrote in a public statement.

In a statement to The Post & Email at the time, Corman’s spokesman, Jason Thompson, was noncommittal as to whether or not Corman advocated a forensic audit.

In Maricopa County, AZ, where a forensic audit has been completed and a final review undertaken, state senators launching a forensic election audit last winter and issuing subpoenas for voting equipment and related items were opposed by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which took the matter to court. In late February, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason ruled in favor of the state senators, deeming the subpoenas “valid and enforceable.”

“…There is no question that the Senators have the power to issue legislative subpoenas,” Thomason wrote in his conclusion. “The Subpoenas comply with the statutory requirements for legislative subpoenas. The Senate also has broad constitutional power to oversee elections. The Arizona legislature clearly has the power to investigate and examine election reform matters. Accordingly, the Senators have the power to subpoena material as part of an inquiry into election reform measures. As such, the Subpoenas have a proper legislative purpose. The Subpoenas also do not violate separation of powers principles. Production of the subpoenaed materials would not violate confidentiality laws.”

Prior to launching the audit, Mastriano visited the Maricopa County audit, in addition to state legislators from at least 13 states.

In Georgia, an audit granted by a judge of absentee ballots in Fulton County has been challenged by the county. One of the plaintiffs, voterga.org founder Garland Favorito, provided an update on the case on Saturday. At the opening of the interview, Favorito said he is “about to announce some new evidence, in fact, that will be very earth-shattering…”

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  1. S.,

    Veronica Degraffenreid is the epitome of what a Deep State operative is. That she is not to be trusted is a given, just as she is the poster child of what is the most despicable aspects of a godless political entity, such as the CCP and the Deep State/Obots/Dems. It is not surprising that she acts the way she does, what is surprising that a State Trooper hasn’t arrested her on the charge of violating the Constitutional rights of each and every citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

    OPOVV