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.
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 provide additional training.” Pedri told WNEP. “This is a big election. Obviously, the eyes of the world are on Pennsylvania. The eyes of the world are on Luzerne County right now. It’s up to us to make sure that the integrity of the election is being maintained, and it is being maintained here.”