Threats rattle Pennsylvania county targeted in election audit

An electoral worker stands next to boxes with ballot material following the 2020 U.S. presidential election, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 6, 2020.
REUTERS

By Nathan Layne

One of the Pennsylvania counties targeted in a Republican lawmaker’s “forensic investigation” into the 2020 election has beefed up security around its courthouse following threatening posts on social media, one of its commissioners told Reuters.

The incendiary Facebook posts appeared targeted at members of Tioga County’s all-Republican board of commissioners after they decided not to comply with the lawmaker’s request to turn over their voting machines, Commissioner Erick Coolidge said.

One individual, in an apparent reference to the county’s three commissioners, called them traitors and said there were “plenty of trees” in a nearby gorge to “hang ropes from,” according to a post viewed by Reuters on a Facebook page.

In response, the law enforcement presence was strengthened around their offices at the courthourse in the town of Wellsboro, Coolidge said, without providing details. The Tioga County sheriff’s office did not reply to a request for comment.

“We’ve kind of beefed up security around the courthouse,” Coolidge said. “I’m more concerned about our personnel than myself.”

Pennsylvania has already conducted a so-called risk-limiting audit of the November election, and all counties also audited a sample of their votes as mandated by law. Neither effort turned up widespread fraud to put in question Donald Trump’s loss to President Joe Biden in the state by 81,000 votes.

State Senator Doug Mastriano, a promoter of Trump’s baseless stolen-election claims, has nevertheless argued that a deeper probe involving the inspection of equipment was needed because so many people doubted Trump’s defeat. Earlier this month, he started the probe with requests to Tioga, Philadelphia and York counties for access to their voting machines.

Tioga, a rural county of 40,000 people on the state’s northern border with New York, told Mastriano they could not comply after the state’s top election official warned counties that their equipment would be decertified if they cooperated.

The move angered many Trump supporters. Audit the Vote PA, a group that has been promoting Mastriano’s effort, said in a Facebook post on Thursday that it had been informed of death threats against Tioga County commissioners. “We never ever would condone violence and we would never advocate for that,” it said.

Coolidge, a Trump supporter and veteran of Republican politics in the state, said Mastriano was partly to blame for the tensions. He described his approach as “terribly offensive”, saying he had led people to believe that a lack of immediate compliance meant counties were trying to conceal something.

Mastriano, who did not respond to a request for comment, has given counties until July 31 to comply or face a subpoena. “There is nothing to fear if there is nothing to hide,” he wrote in a July 7 editorial explaining the rationale for his probe.

“He owes us an apology for the way he conducted this because he incited all of those who believe this needs to take place,” Coolidge said. “I am as angry at this individual as I can humanly possibly be.”

Coolidge said the county was open to complying with the investigation as long as it was deemed legal, Mastriano was able to get the committee he chairs to issue a subpoena for access to the equipment, and taxpayers did not bear any costs.

He said he was confident Tioga’s results were accurate.

“I would rather we spent time or money in arenas that change the quality of life of those we represent,” he said.

Reuters

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