By Nathan Layne
(Reuters) – One of the Pennsylvania counties targeted by a “forensic investigation” by a Republican lawmaker into the 2020 election has stepped up security around its courthouse following threatening social media posts one of its commissioners told Reuters.
The inflammatory posts from Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 appeared to target members of the Tioga County all-Republican Council of Commissioners after deciding not to comply with lawmakers’ demand to hand over their voting machines, Commissioner Erick Coolidge said.
One person, apparently referring to the three county commissioners, called them traitors and said there were “lots of trees” in a nearby gorge to “hang ropes,” according to a report seen by Reuters on a Facebook page.
In response, law enforcement has been stepped up around their offices at the City of Wellsboro courthouse, Coolidge said, without providing details. The Tioga County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
“We’ve kind of beefed up security around the courthouse,” Coolidge said. “I am more concerned with our staff than myself.”
Pennsylvania has already conducted a so-called risk limit audit of the November election, and all counties have also audited a sample of their votes, according to the law. None of these efforts exposed widespread fraud to question Donald Trump’s loss to President Joe Biden in the state by 81,000 votes.
State Senator Doug Mastriano, a proponent of Trump’s baseless allegations of stolen elections, nonetheless argued that further investigation involving equipment inspection was needed because so many people doubted defeat of Trump. Earlier this month, he launched the investigation by asking the counties of Tioga, Philadelphia and York to access their voting machines.
Tioga, a rural county of 40,000 on the upstate border with New York City, told Mastriano they could not comply after the state’s top election official warned the counties that their equipment would be decertified if they cooperated.
This decision angered many Trump supporters. Audit the Vote PA, a group that promotes Mastriano’s efforts, said in a Facebook post Thursday that it had been made aware of death threats against Tioga County Commissioners. “We will never tolerate violence and we will never advocate for it,” he said.
Coolidge, a Trump supporter and veteran of Republican politics in the state, said Mastriano was partly responsible for the tensions. He described his approach as “terribly offensive,” saying he led people to believe that immediate lack of compliance meant counties were trying to hide something.
Mastriano, who did not respond to a request for comment, gave 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 reason for his investigation.
“He owes us an apology for the way he has conducted this because he has incited everyone who thinks this has to take place,” Coolidge said. “I am as angry with this individual as I can humanely be.”
Coolidge said the county was willing to comply with the investigation as long as it was deemed legal, Mastriano was able to get the committee to chair him to issue a subpoena to access the equipment and that the taxpayers did not bear any costs.
He said he was convinced Tioga’s results were correct.
“I would rather we spend time or money in arenas that change the quality of life for those we represent,” he said.