Election Assessment in Pennsylvania County Uncovers Five ‘Issues of Note’

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.
June 12, 2021 Updated: June 12, 2021

An election assessment conducted in a Pennsylvania county months ago and quietly released to the public in recent weeks uncovered five errors, including three linked to Dominion Voting Systems, whose election management system is used in the county, the assessing firm said.

Wake Technology Services Inc. (Wake TSI), a Pennsylvania-based firm, conducted the assessment in Fulton County. Workers visited the county’s offices late last year and about a month later, on Feb. 9.

The assessment was meant to review the mail-in ballots in the county and explore whether conduct relating to absentee ballot requests, distribution, receipt, and counting were in line with federal and commonwealth guidelines, Wake TSI said in the 93-page report that was quietly published on the county’s website, with no public fanfare, in May.

Wake TSI personnel did not conduct a technology forensic audit of the operating system or election management system (EMS) but did review some system file dates, log files, ballot images, and other files.

Wake TSI said in its report summary that it found that the election “was well run, was conducted in a diligent and effective manner and followed the directions of Pennsylvania.” No anomalies were reported during the election process and expectations were that the assessment would not show any indications of fraud, error, interference, or misconduct.

However, Wake TSI said it found five “issues of note,” including that Dominion failed to meet the commonwealth’s certification standards; that the election management system had Microsoft SQL Server Data Tools installed, despite the software not being part of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s certified configuration; and that changes were made to the management system just three weeks prior to the election.

Assessors said there is “no valid reason” for the software to be installed on the system and that the presence “allows any user with access to change and manipulate the EMS databases without logging [recording] to the Database, EMS, or [operating system] logfiles.”

They also said that Dominion failed to fill out a document that attests that the installed software versions conformed with certified reasons, with Dominion apparently claiming filling out the form was “optional.”

Dominion Voting Systems disputed the report’s findings related to it.

The Microsoft software “is a federally-certified component of Dominion’s system, which meets U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Voluntary Voting System Guidelines,” a spokesperson said in an email, adding: “Only federal and state entities have the authority to certify voting machines. Dominion’s systems have been certified by both the U.S. EAC and the State of Pennsylvania.”

A search of the voluntary guidelines did not turn up any mention of Microsoft SQL Server Data Tools, which can be used to create, debug, maintain, and rewrite the source code of a database.

The Microsoft software in question can help recover from a corrupted database if there’s a crash, such as a crash caused by a power surge, but can also be used for nefarious purposes, according to Greg Miller, chief operating officer of the OSET Institute, a California-based nonprofit that researches, develops, and educates on elections technology reform. The type of assessment Wake TSI conducted would not be able to uncover whether it was used for something malfeasant.

The nonprofit’s policy and technology teams went over the assessment and found cause for concern and spaces where both the county and Dominion could improve, he added.

“No direct evidence of any malfeasance but, boy, people deserve better. There were some fundamental mistakes that were made there and I think Dominion owes some answers,” he told The Epoch Times.

The report showed “a couple of bureaucratic errors that would leave the average voter wondering, and they should, they should wonder,” he said. “It doesn’t look good. It looks awful. Unfortunately, the kind of digital forensic analysis we would want to do to determine if the presence of those toolkits caused any problems is almost impossible now,” he said, adding that election machines that are under suspicion would ideally be sequestered immediately before being audited.

The errors included the county not keeping documentation on whether logic and accuracy testing was done on the machines, which is inconsistent with the Pennsylvania Department of State’s conditions for certification, and Dominion’s stated failure to fill out the attestation form.

Logic and accuracy tests are done on machines before elections to make sure that voting equipment and ballots set to be used in an election can properly tabulate the results.

Wake TSI’s report states that Fulton County apparently “never had a Logic and Accuracy test documented,” adding: “This is not to say whether or not the L&A testing has been completed, but there is nothing documenting that the process was completed.”

Wake TSI explained that the issue is not minor because inaccurate scanning can significantly impact election results, using the example of alignment of a candidate’s voting circle being off by a fraction of an inch, which would render the system unable to properly read the ballot, which would then go through the adjudication process, which is open to interpretation by election workers.

“A simple human error, or a bad actor, could cause huge issues with accurate ballot counting if it is not caught by proper testing both before and after an election, as it is required by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” the firm said, blaming both Dominion and Pennsylvania’s Department of State.

The Department of State did not respond to multiple queries for this article.

According to Fulton County commission meeting minutes, commissioners discussed on Dec. 29, 2020, on a third-party team that wanted to inspect the 2020 election results. Commissioners Stuart Ulsh and Randy Bunch, both Republicans, supported the inspection but the lone Democrat commissioner, Paula Shives, said she would only be agreeable to an inspection if machines were not removed. She also said that she wanted to be present for the inspection.

Wake TSI visited the county offices two days later, collecting copies of log files, images of scanned ballots, and other materials. Patti Hess, the county’s director of elections and voter registration, or Bunch remained in the room with the ballots during the entire course of the review, according to the minutes and the election assessment.

Epoch Times Photo
A portion of the minutes from the Fulton County commissioners’ meeting goes over Wake TSI’s election assessment, on Jan. 5, 2021. (Screenshot/Fulton County via The Epoch Times)

Ulsh motioned at a Jan. 12 meeting to permit Wake TSI to complete the mail-in ballot portion of the election review. Bunch voted yes. Shives voted no “because she feels anyone wanting to review election materials should go through the legal process and obtain a subpoena,” according to minutes of the meeting.

The commissioners noted participating in the second visit, which they described as an audit, in their Feb. 9 meeting.

No further mention was made of the assessment until May 11, when Ulsh motioned that the Wake TSI’s report would be placed on the county’s website after the firm released it. All three commissioners approved the motion.

The two Republican commissioners in the county did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Shives, the lone Democrat, answered an initial query about the assessment by pointing The Epoch Times to Wake TSI’s report. She did not respond to further questions.

Hess on June 2 declined to comment, saying she was too busy with primary certification. Responding to a followup inquiry a week later, she directed questions about the assessment to the commissioners.

Wake TSI did not return multiple requests for interviews or comment.

Wake TSI also included in its assessment analysis on what it described as ballot-scanning errors, saying the scanning errors identified in two sets of log files exceeded the allowable error rate set by the federal government.

However, Miller said he did not know of the error rate they cited and that the number of errors found was not unusual.

Dominion told The Epoch Times via email: “Claims of ‘scanning errors’ are also incorrect as they do not relate to Dominion’s system. These are benign instances where ballots were not fed into the scanner correctly and were ejected [‘reversed’] for the voter to try again or instances of ballot mistakes such as overvoting or blank ballots.”

Another election expert said he did not think Wake TSI uncovered anything significant.

“Bottom line: Wake TSI didn’t find anything of substance that went wrong. In my analysis of elections over the last ten years, I have found a lot of errors made by tired people under pressure using a complicated computer system. I have never seen anything that looked intentional or that looked like an attempt at fraud. I don’t read anything in the Wake TSI report that would suggest otherwise, and I read a lot in the Wake report that points out how little they knew about analysis of election data,” Duncan Buell, chair emeritus-NCR chair in computer science and engineering at the University of South Carolina, told The Epoch Times in an email.

“There are experts who analyze elections. (I believe I am one of them.). I don’t see that Wake was anywhere close to that space until they were called on for the specific purpose of finding evidence that might support The Big Lie. They didn’t find the evidence, so they focus on the nits,” he added.

But Pennsylvania lawmakers said the assessment’s findings motivated recent calls for an audit in the state.

“I’ve only done a preliminary review of the audit, however my first concern is the lack of L&A inspections of the voting system after the changes were made to the system. The non-certified database tools (I have learned of SQL being discovered in machines in other states when it is not a software product permitted under the Election Assistance Commission guidance) are of significant concern as they allow for manipulation of data and facilitate the transmittal and reception of modifications to data from outside of the machines in question,” Pennsylvania Sen. Cris Dush, a Republican, told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.

Epoch Times Photo
A screenshot from the website of Wake TSI shows members of its team. (Screenshot/Wake TSI via The Epoch Times)

“Constituents from across the Commonwealth continue to have questions about the 2020 Election. Because responses from the Department of State and other state government officials have not answered these many concerns, Senator Argall believes all options should be considered—including an assessment of the Fulton County audit and how it was conducted,” added Jim Brugger, a spokesman for Pennsylvania Sen. Dave Argall, a Republican who chairs the Senate’s State Government Committee.

The assessment showed blunders by both the county and Dominion but also indicated that the election ran largely correctly, according to Miller of the OSET Institute. Still, the issues identified highlight the need for technology that’s more easily examined by auditors and others, he added.

“The problem here is you’ve got black box technology when we need glass box technology,” he said.

Wake TSI’s assessment was “set” by Pennsylvania Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Republican, according to a Dec. 31, 2020 document signed by Wake TSI that was obtained and published (pdf) by the Arizona Mirror and the Washington Post.  Mastriano declined to comment. Wake TSI says in its assessment that Mastriano and Pennsylvania Sen. Judy Ward “were aware of our efforts.”

The document also said the Wake TSI was “contracted to Defending the Republic,” a nonprofit founded by lawyer Sidney Powell, who has claimed widespread fraud occurred in last year’s election.

Contact information was not listed on the nonprofit’s website. Powell did not respond to an email.

Hess, Fulton County’s elections director, told acting Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Veronica Degraffenreid last month that “various members” of the state legislature asked for Wake TSI to do an audit in the county.

“Since we believe in transparency, we agreed to let them come in and do the audit,” she wrote in the letter, which was sent last month and obtained by the Post.

Hess said that that Wake had three people in the room where the ballots were stored. Hess would hand a ballot to one, who would write down who was voted for before passing it on to a second person, who also wrote down the ballot result. The third person then took a picture of the ballot.

The team also took backups of “key data on our computers used in the ballot counting process” and used a system imaging tool to “take complete hard drive images” of computers used in the election, she added.

Wake TSI was later subcontracted by Florida-based Cyber Ninjas to help audit ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona. In its statement of work, Cyber Ninjas cited Wake’s experience in Fulton County and said the firm had workers that have been involved in investigating election fraud issues dating back to 1994.

The Maricopa County audit started on April 23. Wake TSI stopped working on the audit as of May 14, choosing not to renew its contract. The ballot review work was taken over by Arizona-based StratTech Solutions. The audit is expected to wrap up by the end of June, with a report on what auditors found expected in July or August.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.