American Oversight on Tuesday sued Fulton County in Pennsylvania to compel the release of records related to the county’s partisan review of the 2020 presidential election.
The lawsuit follows requests made by American Oversight under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law for documents from the review conducted by Fulton County in December 2020 and February 2021. The county has released some files, including text messages sent by county commissioners regarding the review, but it has failed to produce records of official business known to have been conducted by county officials using personal accounts, as well as early communications between the county and Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano.
In December 2020 and February 2021, with the backing of Mastriano, Fulton County carried out “audits” of the 2020 presidential election. The process was carried out by Wake TSI, a software company with reported ties to former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell. In July, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of state decertified Fulton County’s voting machines after concluding that Wake TSI’s examination of the machines violated the state’s election code.
On July 2, 2021, American Oversight submitted public records requests to Fulton County seeking multiple sets of documents related to the audits, including all electronic communications sent or received by commissioners related to the reviews. Initially, the county denied American Oversight’s requests and argued that the records were exempt from release. After an administrative appeal, the state’s open records office ruled in American Oversight’s favor and ordered Fulton County to release responsive records. The county released an initial set of records in October.
The documents released to American Oversight in October contained text messages and emails that indicate that state Sen. Doug Mastriano may have asked that Fulton County election officials voluntarily cooperate or face a subpoena. Notably, the records suggest that further official correspondence regarding the election review took place on commissioners’ personal email accounts. Those records have not been released.
In letters sent to Fulton County on Nov. 5 and Dec. 10, American Oversight sought to obtain multiple categories of responsive records that were missing from sets of documents the county previously released. The county failed to respond to the most recent letter as requested, prompting American Oversight to ask that the court order the county to search for and release records responsive to American Oversight’s requests as required under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law.
“Pennsylvanians deserve the truth about this sham review and under the state’s Right-to-Know Law, the county is required to produce the records we requested,” said Melanie Sloan, American Oversight’s senior adviser. “American Oversight tried to work cooperatively with the county to ensure all records are made public, but we’ve been stymied at every turn. Our patience is exhausted; we have no choice but to vindicate in court the public’s right to these records.”
American Oversight has been investigating efforts to undermine faith in elections and subvert transparency across the country, and has forced the release of documents from the sham election reviews in Arizona and Wisconsin, revealing heavy involvement of partisan actors and conspiracy theorists in both inquiries.
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