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