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An initiative to provide nonpartisan, independent elections journalism for southwestern Pennsylvania.

A private company examined 2020 ballots, hard drives from 2 Pa. counties

Gene J. Puskar

A Michigan-based forensics company said it has reviewed 2020 election materials in two Pennsylvania counties.

In a pair of reports it released earlier this month, Speckin Forensics said it reviewed ballot scans and count sheets from Allegheny County. It also said it took “forensic images” of six hard drives from decertified election machines in Fulton County – at the county’s request.

Commissioners said in a legal filing that they hired Speckin as a matter of “due diligence.” Another company called Wake TSI probed Fulton County’s election materials early last year, but that review yielded nothing that would alter the results of any past election. State Senate Republicans wanted yet another company to probe election machines there in January, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court halted that effort.

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A spokesperson for Allegheny County said its Board of Elections did not know Speckin was reviewing ballots and count sheets until its report was aired during a Sept. 20 meeting.The materials had been made public shortly after the 2020 election through a Right to Know request.

On its website, Speckin describes itself as an “International forensic firm” that specializes in a host of investigative techniques, like “ink-dating,” examining “Shoe and Tire Prints” and “Cell Phone Forensic.”

One of the company’s experts, Erich Speckin, has said he helped with a review in Arizona, which has been discredited as not following professional audit protocols. Speckin also appeared on a right-leaning podcast in which he claims to show “proof they stole your voice.”

Multiple experts and audits have proven Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results were accurate.

But for almost two years, allies of former President Donald Trump, a Republican-led state Senate committee, and private companies have been trying to dig up proof of widespread problems.

Speckin Forensics said it found anomalies in the election materials it reviewed, but does not claim any of its findings indicate there was any fraud or malfeasance.

The company’s Fulton County report highlights certain activity on the hard drives it scanned, but does not explain that such activity is a normal part of computer operation. Its Allegheny County report points to “image quality” issues with some of the ballots it reviewed, but acknowledges that it would need to review all “700,000 ballots cast” to figure out whether that finding means anything.

According to state law, counties are only required to preserve records from an election for two years.

Allegheny County leaders refuted the image quality finding at its Elections Board meeting this month.

The Department of State and the U.S. Department of Justice have warned against letting third-party companies like Speckin probe election materials, citing security risks and potential election law violations.