McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit against the Fulton County commissioners to compel compliance with a September 2021 order by the Office of Open Records to produce all records related to Fulton County’s review of its election results and voting machines.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a Right To Know Act request for documents in July 2021 related to Fulton County’s review of voting machines and election data that the county agreed to undertake at the request of state Senator Doug Mastriano, but the county has failed to produce much of the content that the civil liberties group requested, including financial records, the contract with the third-party vendor hired to do the review, the commissioners’ private emails, and meeting minutes.
“The Right To Know Law exists so that government operates in the sunlight, not in the dark,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Transparency is a critical value in a democracy, especially when public officials try to undermine voters’ trust in elections, as the commissioners and senator have done. We intend to follow this through until the Fulton County commissioners comply with the law.”
The county initially denied the ACLU’s request, but the Office of Open Records ultimately ruled in the organization’s favor in September, after the organization appealed the denial.
The county later released nearly 700 documents, but, in the lawsuit filed this week in Fulton County Court of Common Pleas, the ACLU of Pennsylvania states that there are documents missing from that record, documents that the organization’s counsel knows exist through media reports, an open records request by another organization, and those “that logically must exist.”
The ACLU has received no documents that indicate how Wake TSI, the company hired to conduct the review, was paid or the terms of engagement. The county has also refused to turn over emails from the commissioners’ private accounts that are referenced in discussions over government accounts; state law requires that emails related to public business be released, even if the discussions took place over private email accounts.
“The Fulton County commissioners are playing fast and loose with the law,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, who submitted the request. “Their flagrant refusal to honor the order by the Office of Open Records that the documents must be disclosed raises the question, ‘What are they trying to hide?’ The county commissioners accepted Senator Mastriano’s invitation to conduct a baseless review of election results, and the public has a right to know critical details about who sponsored and paid for the review, specifics of how it was conducted, and what county commissioners were saying behind the scenes.”
The plaintiffs are asking the court to require the county to release all documents related to the request, impose fines on the county for failing to follow the law, and award the plaintiffs attorneys’ fees and costs. Walczak and the ACLU of Pennsylvania are represented by the law firm Saul Ewing LLP.
“We are happy to represent the ACLU in this issue of vital public importance concerning the operation and maintenance of voting machines in Fulton County,” said Charles Kelly of Saul Ewing. “This is an important topic in Pennsylvania and the nation, and the public has a right to know how local officials are comporting themselves with respect to the right to vote.”
The lawsuit comes the same week that Fulton County was sued by Dominion Voting Systems to prevent an unaccredited contractor from inspecting its voting machines, at the behest of Pennsylvania Senate Republicans.
A copy of today’s filing is available at aclupa.org/FultonRTK.