Feds: Trump votes dis­carded 9 Luzerne County mail-in bal­lots, 7 cast for pres­i­dent, found in probe

The Times-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMES HALPIN STAFF WRITER

A fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties with mail-in bal­lots at the Luzerne County Bureau of Elec­tions has turned up dis­carded bal­lots that were cast for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, U.S. At­tor­ney David J. Freed said Thurs­day.

In a pre­pared state­ment is­sued by his of­fice, Freed said FBI agents and the state po­lice who be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­ten­tial is­sues with a small num­ber of bal­lots ear­lier this week de­ter­mined a small num­ber of mil­i­tary bal­lots for the Novem­ber gen­eral elec­tion had been dis­carded.

“In­ves­ti­ga­tors have re­cov­ered nine bal­lots at this time,” Freed said. “Some of those bal­lots can be at­trib­uted to spe­cific vot­ers and some can­not.”

Prose­cu­tors ini­tially said all nine bal­lots had been cast for Trump. In a re­vised state­ment is­sued later Thurs­day, prose­cu­tors said that of the nine bal­lots that were dis­carded, seven had been cast for Trump.

The other two had been re­sealed inside their “ap­pro­pri­ate en­velopes” by elec­tions bureau staff prior to the FBI

“Duty of gov­ern­ment to en­sure that ev­ery prop­erly cast vote is counted.”

ar­riv­ing on scene and the con­tents of those bal­lots are un­known, prose­cu­tors said.

Prose­cu­tors de­scribed the elec­tions bureau as be­ing “co­op­er­a­tive” and said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the bal­lots was on­go­ing.

“It is the vi­tal duty of gov­ern­ment to en­sure that ev­ery prop­erly cast vote is counted,” Freed said.

Lack­awanna County Direc­tor of Elec­tions Mar­ion Medalis said she has not had a prob­lem with miss­ing bal­lots and no one from the FBI has con­tacted her.

Dur­ing a me­dia brief­ing on the White House’s south lawn Thurs­day af­ter­noon, Trump cited the in­ci­dent as ev­i­dence of his on­go­ing claim that mail-in vot­ing is sus­cep­ti­ble to fraud.

“So we have to be very care­ful with the bal­lots. The bal­lots, that’s a whole big scam. They found, I un­der­stand, eight bal­lots in a wastepa­per bas­ket in some lo­ca­tion,” Trump told re­porters. “We want to make sure the elec­tion is hon­est and I’m not sure that it can be. I don’t know that it can be with this whole sit­u­a­tion, un­so­licited bal­lots. They’re un­so­licited, mil­lions be­ing sent to ev­ery­body.”

Trump won Luzerne County by al­most 20 per­cent­age points in 2016 over Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Shapiro, speak­ing to CNN host Pamela Brown on Thurs­day af­ter­noon, of­fered a dif­fer­ent take when asked if the find­ing in Luzerne County would un­der­mine the public’s con­fi­dence in mail-in vot­ing.

“I ap­plaud Dave Freed for do­ing his job,” Shapiro said. “All law en­force­ment should be do­ing their job to en­sure that ev­ery le­gal, el­i­gi­ble vote is counted. Now, we’ll have to wait and see ex­actly what Unites States At­tor­ney Freed and the FBI and the lo­cal district at­tor­ney came up with, but I think that should give the public con­fi­dence in know­ing that all of us in law en­force­ment are do­ing our job to make sure that le­gal, el­i­gi­ble votes are counted.”

Luzerne County District At­tor­ney Ste­fanie Sala­van­tis’ of­fice be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­ten­tial is­sues with some mail-in bal­lots that were re­ceived last week prior to con­sult­ing with the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice.

Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties took the lead in the case at the re­quest of Sala­van­tis on Mon­day, al­though county de­tec­tives were con­tin­u­ing to as­sist.

Sala­van­tis, a Repub­li­can, pre­vi­ously said she be­lieved the is­sue would not im­pact the Nov. 3 elec­tion re­sults.

“We are con­fi­dent that it will be suc­cess­fully re­solved so it will not have an im­pact on the in­tegrity of the elec­tion process,” Sala­van­tis said ear­lier this week.

Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion county solic­i­tor Romilda P. Cro­camo re­leased Thurs­day, the county sent out over­seas mil­i­tary and civil­ian bal­lots be­gin­ning Aug. 25. No other mail-in bal­lots had been sent out as of to­day.

The county plans to send out the gen­eral mail-in bal­lots the first week of Oc­to­ber, af­ter proof­ing and test­ing has been com­pleted, she said.

County Man­ager David Pedri also is­sued a state­ment thank­ing Sala­van­tis and Freed for their pro­fes­sional work in­ves­ti­gat­ing the sit­u­a­tion.

“The county will con­tinue to work in co­op­er­a­tion with the au­thor­i­ties through­out their re­view,” Pedri said.

FREED

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.