The Lead

Rural Pa. county says it will not willingly hand over election materials for 2020 audit

By: - July 14, 2021 2:37 pm

A rural Republican county in north-central Pennsylvania decided Tuesday night to reject a Republican state senator’s request for the county’s voting machines, ballots, and other election materials in connection with his planned audit of the 2020 election.

Tioga County’s solicitor said that a legal directive from the Department of State issued last week blocks the county from providing the machines, according to Reuters.

The county was one of three that received letters from state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, asking for the counties to turn over potentially hundreds of thousands of documents to conduct a legislative-led “forensic investigation” of the 2020 general election and 2021 primary election.

Mastriano asked counties to reply by July 31. If not, he threatened to issue subpoenas under the auspices of his role as chairman of an obscure Senate committee.

A spokesperson for Mastriano did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Department of State, which has oversight of elections, warned counties in a directive last week that they “shall not provide physical, electronic, or internal access to third parties seeking to copy and/or conduct an examination of state-certified electronic voting systems, or any components of such systems.”

Counties that complied with the audit would not be compensated by the state to replace decertified election equipment, the agency said.

Mastriano also requested information from York County, an exurban county in south central Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia, the commonwealth’s largest city. The former is historically Republican, the latter Democratic.

A spokesperson for York County told the Capital-Star on Wednesday that the county’s Board of Elections plans to respond to Mastriano’s letter by July 31, but did not yet have a response.

Philadelphia County has yet to issue a formal response either, but Reuters reported that the county may have to spend $40 million in taxpayer money to replace equipment if it is handed over to the Senate.

County supervisors in Maricopa County, Arizona voted Wednesday to approve $2.8 million for new ballot tabulation machines deemed inoperable following a similar legislative election review of the county’s 2020 results. 

Another small Pennsylvania county, Fulton in south-central Pennsylvania, already has paid $25,000 to replace its voting machines after, with Mastriano’s encouragement, it approved an audit of its 2020 election.

Republicans across the country have pursued election audits of the 2020 election after former President Donald Trump and his allies spread baseless claims of voter fraud to overturn his loss.

What you need to know about the GOP-backed audit of Pa.’s elections

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.