Wake Technology Services audited a Pennsylvania election as part of the #StopTheSteal movement

By: - May 21, 2021 8:52 am
Wake Technology Services Cyber Ninjas

A badge worn by audit workers featuring the logos of Cyber Ninjas and Wake Technology Services Inc. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

The company that is conducting a hand recount of nearly 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots conducted an election audit in rural Pennsylvania county at the request of a state senator who has been a prominent advocate of the “Stop the Steal” movement that has spread baseless conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential election was rigged against Donald Trump.

According to records and news coverage from Fulton County, Penn., state senators Doug Mastriano and Judy Ward asked county officials to allow Wake Technology Services Inc. to conduct an audit of the election. Ward, who represents the rural county in southern central Pennsylvania, told the Arizona Mirror that she passed the request on to county officials at Mastriano’s behalf. 

Mastriano has been a prominent supporter of the “Stop the Steal” movement and Trump ally. He helped organize a Nov. 25 hearing in Gettysburg where Trump campaign lawyer Rudy Giuiani and others aired baseless conspiracy theories that Trump lost Pennsylvania through “irregularities and fraud.” He said on Wednesday Trump recently urged him to run for governor.

Wake TSI, an information technology company that has predominantly worked with clients in the health care sector, is now conducting a hand recount of all ballots cast in Maricopa County during the 2020 presidential election as part of an audit ordered by Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott. The company is part of an audit team led by Cyber Ninjas, a cybersecurity company located in Florida. Fann and Cyber Ninjas cited Wake TSI’s experience in Fulton County as a qualification to participate in the Maricopa County audit.

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Wake TSI’s link to Mastriano is not the only Stop the Steal connection on Arizona’s audit team. Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, who assembled the team, repeatedly spread false and groundless election fraud allegations on Twitter before deleting his account, and wrote an “election fraud facts” memo filled with false and dubious claims for U.S. senators who sought to overturn the November election by challenging certification of the Electoral College on Jan. 6. Logan also worked with Lin Wood, a lawyer and conspiracy theorist who has promoted election fraud conspiracy theories, on an investigation into the election late last year.

Fulton County did not sign any contracts with Wake TSI and did not pay for the audit. The Fulton County News reported that Republican county Commissioner Stuart Ulsh told members of the public at the county commission’s Feb. 9 meeting that he didn’t know who paid for the audit.

Ulsh said the anonymously funded audit was crucial for transparency, “to let the people of Fulton County know that the election was legit.”

“We didn’t do it because we thought we did something wrong; we did it to prove Fulton County didn’t do anything wrong,” Ulsh said, according to the Fulton County News.

Wake TSI, Cyber Ninjas, Fann and other representatives of the audit team have refused to comment on who paid Wake TSI or why Mastriano wanted the company to conduct the Fulton County audit.

Wake Technology Services is based in West Chester, Penn., just west of the Philadelphia area. But it’s unclear why Mastriano specifically wanted Wake TSI to conduct the audit, given that the company appears to have had little or no experience with elections prior to its involvement in Fulton County. It’s also unclear why Mastriano focused on Fulton, a rural county with a small population where Trump won handily, garnering 6,824 votes to Joe Biden’s 1,085, while Biden won the state as a whole by more than 80,000 votes.

Mastriano did not respond to multiple messages from the Mirror.

According to the minutes from the county commission’s Dec. 29 meeting, the two Republican members of the three-person county commission, Ulsh and Randy Bunch, wanted to grant the request to allow Wake TSI to inspect the county’s voting machines, while Democratic Commissioner Paula Shives said she would only support it if the machines weren’t removed and if she was present for the inspection. At the commission’s Jan. 5 meeting, Shives noted that the inspection was held on Dec. 31 without her knowledge and without a vote, the minutes stated

On Jan. 12, the commission voted 2-1 to authorize Wake TSI to complete the absentee ballot portion of its audit. Shives dissented, saying anyone who wanted to review election materials should go through the legal process and get a subpoena, according to the minutes. The company returned to Fulton County on Feb. 9 to finish its work.

Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of the commonwealth, Veronica Degraffenreid, began inquiring about Fulton County’s election audit in early May. On May 3, she sent a letter to the county explaining that Dominion Voting Systems, the vendor that provides the county’s ballot tabulation machines, informed the Pennsylvania Department of State that Fulton County had used the services of an outside auditor. 

Degraffenreid said it’s her responsibility to ensure that Fulton County’s audit was conducted securely, transparently and in a way that maintains the integrity of the voting system. She also said Dominion “appears unwilling” to allow the audited equipment to be used in an upcoming municipal election.

“Though it is appropriate and necessary to conduct post-election testing according to the requirements of Election Code, it is equally important that such post-election testing is done transparently and securely per those same requirements to ensure that the integrity of the voting equipment is not put at risk,” Degraffenreid wrote.

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Fulton County elections director Patti Hess responded the next day, explaining that “various members” of Pennsylvania’s legislature asked her office to allow Wake Technology Services to conduct an audit “to prove to the voters that the 2020 General Election was run appropriately.”

“Since we believe in transparency, we agreed to let them come in and do the audit,” said Hess.

Hess emphasized that Wake TSI employees were never alone with election equipment or ballots. She was with the ballots at all times during the audit, while the county’s IT director was always with the machines.

That didn’t reassure Dominion, which took issue with the county providing an unaccredited and uncertified company access to the machines without the company’s authorization and without any notice that would have allowed for public observation. By doing so, Dominion said the county violated its licensing agreement with the company.

Furthermore, Dominion said the county would not be able to use the machines moving forward. The company required the county to lease new machines at a cost of $25,000, in addition to the $41,000 contract it has with Dominion for 2021.

Maricopa County is now facing a similar issue. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs informed the county’s Board of Supervisors on Thursday that it shouldn’t use the machines that Cyber Ninjas examined, and said she would consider decertifying them if the county attempted to use the machines for another election. The county has said it will not use the machines again.

James Stein, an attorney who serves as the county’s solicitor, took umbrage with the notion that the county would have to sign a new contract.

“Fulton County opted to undertake an audit of the Dominion voting machines to help prove that the machines were functioning properly and that Fulton County conducted a clean election. The County followed all of the advice given to them for that purpose. The County should not now be punished for attempting to be transparent about its election,” Stein wrote in a May 3 email to a Dominion sales manager.

But Kay Stimson, Dominion’s vice president of government affairs, responded that the company was no longer responsible for the current state of the equipment after the county gave an unauthorized third party access to it.

“[T]here are proper ways to conduct post-election audits, requiring strict adherence to chain of custody requirements and the use of properly trained and accredited labs,” Stimson wrote 

Stimson also noted that the county had not received any kind of report from Wake TSI regarding the results of its audit. In response to a public records request from the Arizona Mirror, the county confirmed on May 6 that it had no reports from the company. A week later, the county posted a copy of the Wake TSI’s report, dated Feb. 19, on its website.

No one in New Mexico has heard of Wake TSI

When Fann announced her audit team on March 31, she and Cyber Ninjas touted Wake Technology Services as having performed “hand-count audits” related to the 2020 election in Fulton County and New Mexico, and said some employees of the company assisted the FBI with an election fraud investigation in 1994. 

However, Wake Technology Services, Fann and the audit team have repeatedly refused to answer questions or provide any details about the company’s experience outside of Fulton County, which is the only experience the Mirror was able to verify. No one will say where in New Mexico the company has worked, and it’s unclear whether Wake TSI has actually done any election work in the state. 

Alex Curtas, a spokesman for the New Mexico secretary of state, said he’s unaware of Wake TSI doing any work for the state or for any counties. Fann’s handwritten notes from her search for auditors, which the Mirror obtained through a public records request, indicate that Wake Technology Services worked in Bernalillo County, which includes the Albuquerque area. Officials in Bernalillo County said they’re unfamiliar with the company.

New Mexico state law allows candidates to go to court to impound and other election materials so they can be examined after an election. Losing GOP candidates did so in at least two counties — Bernalillo and Grant County, in the southwestern part of the state. Grant County Clerk Marissa Castrillo said Wake TSI employees weren’t among the group of people who examined ballots after an impoundment in her county.

“I’ve never heard of them doing anything in the state of New Mexico for anything,” Castrillo said.

The Republican Party of New Mexico, which was involved in post-election litigation in at least two counties, also is unfamiliar with Wake TSI. State party Chairman Steve Pearce said he didn’t recognize the company’s name, though he urged the Mirror to reach out to the state party’s executive director, who did not return messages. Geoffrey Snider, executive director of the Republican Party of Bernalillo County, was also unfamiliar with Wake TSI. 

Carter Harrison, an attorney who represented the New Mexico GOP in post-election litigation, said he’s not familiar with Wake Technology Services, though he couldn’t guarantee that they “weren’t in the background” of the cases he worked on or involved in some other litigation in the state.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”

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