Officials in Fulton County, Penn., have been ordered to begin releasing records related to the county’s “audits” of the 2020 election within the next 30 days, following a ruling from Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records on Monday morning. American Oversight had requested the records under the state’s Right to Know Law, and after the county initially denied the requests, the watchdog group filed a successful administrative appeal.
In December 2020 and February 2021, Fulton County carried out “audits” of its election results, becoming an early testing ground for an effort that would eventually spread to Arizona and other states as supporters of former President Donald Trump sought to promote misinformation about the 2020 election.
The Fulton County “audits,” backed by the pro-Trump state Sen. Doug Mastriano, were conducted by the company Wake TSI, which worked as a contractor to a nonprofit operated by attorney Sidney Powell. Powell represented Trump in his efforts to challenge the outcome of the election, and was recently sanctioned by a federal judge for a lawsuit seeking to decertify Michigan’s election results. A few months later, Wake TSI joined the Arizona Senate’s “audit” team, led by Cyber Ninjas, where it was in charge of counting ballots cast in Maricopa County.
Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of state ultimately decertified Fulton County’s voting machines in July after concluding that Wake TSI’s examination of the machines violated the state’s election code.
On July 2, American Oversight sent public records requests to Fulton County seeking multiple sets of documents related to the “audits,” including communications of the county’s technology director regarding the inspection of election equipment.
American Oversight also asked the Fulton County elections director and the Board of Commissioners for records of their communications with external entities, including Powell, Mastriano, and figures linked to audit efforts or election challenges in Arizona and other states.
On July 22, Fulton County denied the requests and argued that the records were exempt from release. American Oversight filed an administrative appeal to the state’s Office of Open Records challenging the denial. On Sept. 13, the agency granted the appeal and issued a final determination that Fulton’s County’s position “suffers from several fatal flaws” and that it must “produce all responsive records within thirty days.”
Fulton County has remained in the spotlight as Trump-allied lawmakers have ramped up efforts to question Pennsylvania’s election results. In August, the state’s Senate Republican leader, Jake Corman, announced that the legislature would conduct a “forensic investigation” of the 2020 election results. The first official hearing of that investigation took place in early September, and Fulton County commissioner Stuart Ulsh was the only official to testify.
In announcing the state’s election investigation, Corman said he had spoken with Trump about the issue, saying: “I think he’s comfortable where we’re heading.”
The quote echoes a December email uncovered by American Oversight in which Arizona Senate President Karen Fann had boasted to a constituent that Trump had called to thank her “for pushing to prove any fraud.”
American Oversight has been investigating efforts in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, and other states to promote false claims of election fraud, advance new voting restrictions, and undermine faith in democratic institutions. Read more about those investigations here.
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