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Election contention overtakes public comment session at Butler County Commissioner Meeting

Some ask county join Audit the Vote PA

August 18, 2021 News Extra

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Wil White, county solicitor, allowed 60 individuals into the meeting room at a time. Those leaving the meeting were replaced by those waiting in the hallway outside.

A group of county residents used the public comment session during Wednesday's county commissioners meeting to advocate for a forensic audit of the 2020 election, while another group encouraged the commissioners to eschew the idea.

The hour-long comment session at times became contentious, as both sides remained passionate on their stance.

Wil White, county solicitor, allowed 60 individuals into the meeting room at a time. Those leaving the meeting were replaced by those waiting in the hallway outside.

The group favoring the audit repeatedly contended that the voting machines used by the county can be hacked, and offered multiple other issues and numbers they say point toward fraud in the last election.

Aaron Sheasley, the county elections director, has stated repeatedly that the machines are not connected to the internet and cannot be hacked.

“An election system that is electronic can be hacked,” said Theresa Walko of Connoquenessing.

She was also concerned with the mail-in ballots received by the county, which she said were counted after election day.

“That's illegal,” Walko said.

Center Township resident Michael Chopp, who spoke on the election fraud issue at last month's commissioners meeting, said the Election Systems & Software voting machines purchased by the county are “corrupted.”

“They were approved only for one reason: to cheat,” Chopp said.

He said 2,000 county residents have signed a petition to have the county join Audit the Vote PA, a statewide group that advocates for counties to perform forensic audits of the 2020 election.

“We absolutely insist on the truth,” Chopp said.

Others stated that while they trust the poll workers and thanked the commissioners for forming an election review commission to study the November election, they believe that outside sources and the ballots' chain of custody are the causes of fraud.

But Catherine Lalonde, chairwoman of the county Democratic Committee, read a statement in which she asserted that the 2020 election was secure.

Lalonde said Fulton County is the only county to join Audit the Vote PA, and they spent $1 million replacing their voting equipment.

Lalonde accused those advocating for an election audit of not defending democracy or the U.S. Constitution, but of “show(ing) their fealty to the former president, who lost the election.”

Others also spoke out against the idea of an election audit.

The commissioners did not comment and took no action on joining Audit the Vote PA.

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Paula Grubbs

Paula Grubbs

Paula Grubbs is a Butler County native who has been with the Butler and Cranberry Eagle newspapers since June 2000. Grubbs has covered the Mars School District and Middlesex Township for over 20 years with the Eagle and her former employer, the Cranberry Journal. She also covers Adams Township, Evans City and Mars in addition to events and incidents throughout Southwestern Butler County as assigned. Grubbs has taken the lead at the Cranberry Eagle in reporting on shale gas development, which has been a hotly debated topic in the recent past, both locally and nationally. A 1979 graduate of Butler Senior High School and a 1994 graduate of Geneva College, Grubbs has won a Golden Quill and four Keystone state awards, plus an award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Grubbs enjoys following the Penguins, Pirates and Steelers, volunteers with the Connoquenessing Creek Cleanup each summer, and loves spending time outdoors and bird watching at her Penn Township home. Grubbs is the daughter of James R. Davis Sr., of Center Township, and the late Maxine Davis. She has two grown children, Jacqueline and Thomas.