The FBI is investigating an incident where numerous mail-in ballots were thrown in the trash in a Pennsylvania county, says a county official. ABC News reported this as a small amount of mail-in ballots that were thrown in the trash by a temporary contractor and it’s being chalked up as an “administrative error.” The number of ballots found was just nine, but still raised concerns and has pending investigations.
This prompted the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of PA and the FBI office in Scranton, PA, to investigate what happened at the Luzerne County Board of Elections. The U.S. Attorney’s office stated that “at this point we can confirm that a small number of military ballots were discarded. Investigators have recovered nine ballots at this time. Some of those ballots can be attributed to specific voters and some cannot.”
It was later reported that the ballots ended up in the trash because of a mistake made by a temporary contractor working at the Luzerne County Elections Bureau. The Justice Department released information about the found ballots and noted that at least seven* of the votes where for candidate, and current President, Donald Trump.
As expected, the County Manager of Luzerne release a statement about the incident and the temporary contractor, saying the contractor was scheduled to sort mail for the elections bureau. The manager, C. David Pedri, said the contractor had “incorrectly discarded into the office trash UMOVA ballots.” UMOVA represents the mail-in ballots that are send in by overseas voters and the military.
Pedri noted that three days worth of garbage from the Elections Bureau, during the contractor’s days of work, was put into a dumpster and then secured by the Luzerne County Staff. From there it was searched by the FBI, Luzerne County Staff, PA State Police, and the local District Attorney’s Office.
A report on ABC News stated that “the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Pennsylvania said on Thursday that nine ballots had been found in a dumpster next to the elections building with seven cast for Trump and the other two resealed inside their envelopes.”
President Donald Trump is likely to used the incident of the mail-in ballots being found in the trash as a means to promote his campaign and stress the importance of voting in person, suggesting that mistakes or errors can happen when voting by mail.
The White House Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, had mentioned it to the press at one point.
— Team Trump (Text VOTE to 88022) (@TeamTrump) September 24, 2020
PA is a key battleground state having 20 electoral votes and the ability to swing an election in one direction or another. The results of the 2016 election saw Hillary Clinton win the popular vote by several million, but Donald Trump won the electoral vote, handing him the presidency.
* Numerous reports stated that all nine of the mail-in ballots found in the trash were for Donald Trump and cited a release on the DOJ website, however that report is no longer visible on their website and the link goes to a broken page. It remains unclear if the DOJ has deleted the report or moved it to another URL.