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.
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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