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Auditor General expanding scope into voting security in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. --- In June, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale launched an audit into voting security across the commonwealth.

That came after officials say the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found an unsuccessful hacking attempt of Pennsylvania's voting election database prior to the 2016 election.

Recent developments, however, are deepening the scope of the audit.

Last week, 12 Russians were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged interference in the 2016 election.

Also, FBI officials allege the largest investor in the company managing Maryland's voter registration system is a Russian oligarch.

According to DePasquale, it was an unprecedented revelation.

"We cannot allow that scenario to play out in Pennsylvania and we must also make sure it's not currently happening," said DePasquale.

The expansion on the audit will include a review of the commonwealths's process of selecting vendors of election management, as well as any checks in place to ensure the vendors hold U.S. interests.

"I coach American Legion baseball, I've got to go through a background check just to do that. What's the background check to the vendors of the election system?" said DePasquale.

Robert Torres, the acting Secretary of State in Pennsylvania, said they asked for the audit into the state-owned and operated voter registration database, the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors, or SURE system.

He said they want to make sure their procedures of data collection with Pennsylvania counties is effective, if the data is maintained accurately, and to review their security protocols.

The Department of State bought the services of the vendor "Acclaim" from the company "Accenture" for maintenance of the system over a decade ago.

Torres said they have no reason to believe there are any issues with foreign ties in regards to these companies.

But Torres says the Department of State will be replacing the "SURE" database due to costliness and outdated equipment.

He said they will also implement new voting machines before the end of 2019.

"Having an audit and seeing what findings may come out of it, some good observations, some good recommendations...That we would incorporate that into any new systems," said Secretary Torres.

Earlier this year, the Department of State also issued new bid invitation and security standards to ensure new vendors will meet their updated procedures.

DePasquale sent letters to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and the U.S. Attorney's Offices in Pennsylvania to start a conversation on what security measures are needed.

The plan is to finish the audit in enough time to get any recommendations in place before the 2020 election.