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Group, voter services director at odds over audit

“I don’t believe anything presented here today currently justifies the extraordinary request to recount a two-year old election.”

Those were the words of Director of Voter Services Forrest Lehman in a statement to a group of concerned citizens who presented what they felt was compelling evidence of an anomaly in the 2020 election in which former president Donald J. Trump won the vote in Lycoming County, but lost the state.

“Allegations about individual voter records or voting experiences that have yet to be reviewed or allegations that a candidate’s vote was higher or lower that what was expected, or allegations that it’s somehow inappropriate that voters decided to split their tickets or not vote their entire ballots, that doesn’t support an argument that the equipment doesn’t count ballots correctly or that the outcome of the election in this county was incorrect,” Lehman continued.

Armed with data derived from their own investigations into alleged voter irregularities and data from various sources, the group appeared before the county’s Board of Elections, which is comprised of Lycoming County Commissioners Scott Metzger, Tony Mussare and Rick Mirabito to make their case for a hand recount of the election and to present nine other demands.

“This is the role of representation of the people and by the people,” said Jeffrey Stroehmann, a spokesman for the group.

“We are the people, and we very much appreciate our elected officials here. We’re not here today to point out wrongdoing, to point fingers, to be adversarial in any way, shape or form,” he stated. “We’re here because there’s been an outcry in the community of concerns regarding the integrity of our elections.”

Stroehmann emphasized that the group wanted the commissioners as elected officials to handle the issue and not county elected officials.

“We would like you as our elected officials and representatives to speak up to the Department of State or to our elected officials in state government,” he said.

“It’s very important that we separate elected officials from department heads…you’re our voice and we want you to hear us today,” he said.

A local attorney, Karen DiSalvo, who is working with the group, echoed Stroehmann’s statement about citizens distrusting the integrity of the election.

“Across our nation, citizens have lost faith in the integrity of the election process,” DiSalvo said.

She further expanded that and said, “What we want to do today is talk about Lycoming County, because Lycoming County voters do not trust the results of the November 2020 election.”

An anomaly is defined as something that deviates from what is expected and quoting various sources that allege anomalies in the local results from that election, DiSalvo said that one expert had said that the numbers in the county “don’t make sense.”

According to the man who recently visited the area, “You need to take a closer look at what happened in your county…it is like that rampant fraud occurred in your county and you absolutely need to take a close look at what happened in your county because the numbers simply do not make sense,” DiSalvo said.

Over 35 people recounted to the commissioners how they had canvassed in various areas in the county and had found what they saw as irregularities in people saying they didn’t vote when they did or addresses of voters not matching the person or other problems with the voting rolls.

DiSalvo, however, cited a report from the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) which had researched the vulnerabilities of voting machines, particularly those from the Dominion company.

Although CISA had concluded that those particular voting machines were vulnerable to hacking, a review of the report cited by DiSalvo stated that “while these vulnerabilities present risks that should be mitigated as soon as possible, CISA has no evidence that these vulnerabilities have been exploited in any elections.”

In rebutting the arguments against voter machines, Lehman pointed to the recent recount of election results from the recent primary election ordered by the state.

“The state ordered recount has been an important opportunity to demonstrate that our voting equipment, which we’ve been using since November 2019, is accurate and that the outcomes of our elections are correct,” Lehman said.

He noted for the record, that “our equipment is not Dominion equipment.”

“For those who believe that a recount of the 2020 election would reveal issues with the voting equipment and change the outcome, I believe that question has already been answered — twice,” Lehman said.

“We have two statewide recounts worth of evidence to prove that our voting equipment produces consistently accurate results,” he added.

Pointing out that voting machines are only “part of the story,” Lehman said, “The other part of the human side.”

He discussed ballot reconciliation, where poll workers have to “account for every official ballot in their supplies at the end of the day.”

“They have to inventory how many were voted, how many were unvoted, spoiled, issued as provisionals and the county reviews those inventories after every election,” Lehman said.

Lehman reiterated comments that he made at a recent commissioners’ meeting that voters don’t always vote the way people expect.

“Every person in this room, I’m sure, hopes their candidates will win on election day, but voters can make choices that surprise or disappoint us. That is not a weakness or a failing of the democratic system, that is simply the way it works,” he said.

Lehman acknowledged that there was a “distance between our positions.”

“But, I believe that there are some areas where constructive dialogue and education is possible,” he said.

“For instance, I welcome information about potential issues with voter registration records that is specific and reviewable — I want our voter registration records to be accurate,” he added.

Referring to the alleged discrepancies that the citizens’ group had uncovered, Lehman said that he wanted to review those claims and would be “prepared to forward potential violations of election laws to the district attorney if warranted.”

Other demands of the group listed by DiSalvo were: to get rid of voting machines and return to paper ballots; no consolidation of precincts; a hand recount of the November 2020 ballots; a hand count of ballots going forward; a posting of election results on election day; an audit of all the ballot images and a preservation of the records from that election. DiSalvo also called for cleaning up the voter rolls in the county.

“We need to restore public confidence in our elections,” she said.

Not everyone at the Board of Elections meeting agreed with those demands.

“Perhaps there are some things that ought to be done, and I suggest that you do it as opposed to relying upon a partisan group that has a particular agenda,” said Bill Miele, following the group’s presentation.

Miele contended that the only reason the concerned citizens were there was because their candidate lost the 2020 election.

“You lost the election, and that’s what it’s about,” Miele said.

Miele challenged the commissioners to focus on all the residents in the county and not just the 1,100 who had signed petitions calling for a recount.

“You have an obligation to 150,000 residents and the 70,000 other voters and not 1,100,” Miele said.

“As far as a recount goes, that’s sour grapes. There’s no reality in it,” he said.

Commissioner Mussare took time at the end to praise the job that voter services had done during the elections.

“They are committed to having a good, solid election that has integrity. I believe that from the bottom of my heart,” Mussare said.

“I don’t believe in some of the information that was given to us today — that’s yet to be seen,” he added.

He also praised the group of concerned citizens saying that the work they had done was illustrative of their patriotism.

The commissioners agreed that they wanted time to go over the information presented before making a decision on the group’s requests.

“When we see something that needs to be looked into, we will look into it,” Metzger said. “People have lost faith in the system.”

Metzger also stressed the need for some type of voter identification.

In his comments, Commissioner Mirabito said, “We can all disagree with each other, but at the end of the day, I think we have to be able to respect that all of us are trying in our way to do what we believe is right.”

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