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Temporary contractor threw Trump mail-in ballots in trash, Pa. county officials say

An incident regarding “a small number” of discarded mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania — which has sparked a Department of Justice investigation and drawn the attention of President Donald Trump — appears to be rooted in an administrative error by a temporary contractor working at the Luzerne County Elections Bureau, according to the county manager.



Donald Trump holding a sign: President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Atlanta.


© John Bazemore/AP
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Atlanta.

He also said county officials did not know which candidate was selected on the ballots until the Justice Department publicly disclosed the information earlier this week.

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Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri said in a statement issued Friday that a temporary independent contractor who was assigned to sort mail at the elections bureau “incorrectly discarded into the office trash UMOVA ballots,” which is an acronym for ballots from military and overseas voters. 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.

“Luzerne County Elections staff were unaware for whom the ballots were cast until the disclosure via Press Release of the United States Attorney on September 24, 2020,” the statement reads.

MORE: Barr briefed Trump on investigation into discarded Pennsylvania ballots

The temporary employee began working at the elections bureau on Sept. 14, Pedri said, and the mistake was discovered by Luzerne County Elections Director Shelby Watchilla two days later.

“Ms. Watchilla immediately began an internal inquiry and informed her direct supervisor. The temporary independent contractor was removed from service and informed not to return,” Pedri said in the statement.

Following the internal inquiry, Watchilla “contacted Luzerne County Office of Law who researched the matter and

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Temporary contractor threw Trump mail-in ballots in county trash, Pennsylvania officials say

An incident regarding “a small number” of discarded mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania — which has sparked a Department of Justice investigation and drawn the attention of President Donald Trump — appears to be rooted in an administrative error by a temporary contractor working at the Luzerne County Elections Bureau, according to the county manager.

He also said county officials did not know which candidate was selected on the ballots until the Justice Department publicly disclosed the information earlier this week.

Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri said in a statement issued Friday that a temporary independent contractor who was assigned to sort mail at the elections bureau “incorrectly discarded into the office trash UMOVA ballots,” which is an acronym for ballots from military and overseas voters. 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.

“Luzerne County Elections staff were unaware for whom the ballots were cast until the disclosure via Press Release of the United States Attorney on September 24, 2020,” the statement reads.

The temporary employee began working at the elections bureau on Sept. 14, Pedri said, and the mistake was discovered by Luzerne County Elections Director Shelby Watchilla two days later.

“Ms. Watchilla immediately began an internal inquiry and informed her direct supervisor. The temporary independent contractor was removed from service and informed not to return,” Pedri said in the statement.

Following the internal inquiry, Watchilla “contacted Luzerne County Office of Law who researched the matter and advised that this needed to be reported to the authorities,” after which a request was made to the district attorney’s office.

SEE ALSO: FiveThirtyEight’s state-by-state guide to voting in

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Officials say independent contractor in Pennsylvania threw away mail-in ballots mostly cast for Trump

The “small number” of absentee ballots discarded in Pennsylvania was an “administrative error” caused by an independent contractor at the Luzerne County Elections Bureau, local officials said.



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Luzerne County Manager David Pedri said in a statement that after he had found out that the worker had discarded the ballots, he had all garbage secured and searched by agents from the FBI, the district attorney’s office, and the Pennsylvania State Police. “All items of concern were taken into custody by the Federal Bureau of Investigations.”

Pedri said that staff at the elections office was “unaware for whom the ballots” were cast until the Department of Justice announced their investigation into the matter.

The Office of the U.S. Attorney and the FBI’s Scranton Resident Office announced that staff had recovered nine “discarded” military ballots, seven of which were cast for President Trump. The content of the two other ballots is unknown.

Pedri said the contractor had been working for two days when the mistake was discovered by Luzerne County Elections Director Shelby Watchilla.

“Ms. Watchilla immediately began an internal inquiry and informed her direct supervisor. The temporary independent contractor was removed from service and informed not to return.” Watchilla then reported the incident to authorities after the internal investigation was complete.

Ballots cannot be opened before 7 a.m. on Election Day. At that time, Luzerne County “will attempt to contact the voters involved and process their votes.”

To ensure election security, Luzerne County has taken several measures to prevent another incident , including cameras and training.

“There are already cameras in the Elections Bureau. They will, obviously, be reviewed. In addition, there is going to be additional training that’s going to be provided to staff. The Department of State will also be coming in to

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Temporary contractor threw Trump mail-in ballots in trash, Pennsylvania county officials say

The FBI is investigating and Trump has used the incident as a rallying point.

He also said county officials did not know which candidate was selected on the ballots until the Justice Department publicly disclosed the information earlier this week.

Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri said in a statement issued Friday that a temporary independent contractor who was assigned to sort mail at the elections bureau “incorrectly discarded into the office trash UMOVA ballots,” which is an acronym for ballots from military and overseas voters. 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.

“Luzerne County Elections staff were unaware for whom the ballots were cast until the disclosure via Press Release of the United States Attorney on September 24, 2020,” the statement reads.

The temporary employee began working at the elections bureau on Sept. 14, Pedri said, and the mistake was discovered by Luzerne County Elections Director Shelby Watchilla two days later.

“Ms. Watchilla immediately began an internal inquiry and informed her direct supervisor. The temporary independent contractor was removed from service and informed not to return,” Pedri said in the statement.

Following the internal inquiry, Watchilla “contacted Luzerne County Office of Law who researched

Continue Reading