Pennsylvania Department of State issues order to block third-party access to voting systems

The directive follows the announcement of an investigation into the state's election system by Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano.

The Pennsylvania Department of State issued a directive on Thursday that prevents third parties from accessing county voting systems.

This directive came as Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano announced on Wednesday that he will investigate the Pennsylvania election system, for both 2020 and 2021 elections. Mastriano, chairperson of the Pennsylvania Senate's Intergovernmental Operations Committee, visited the Maricopa County, Ariz., election audit in June with other Republican state legislators.

"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," the Pennsylvanian State Department directive stated.

"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," the directive continues.

"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 order adds that if any county boards of elections "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," that "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."

If the state withdraws certification or use authority for electronic voing systems, it "will not reimburse any cost of replacement voting equipment."

In a statement responding to the directive, Republican state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman said, "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."