US Lawyer David Freed sent a letter to Luzerne County election officials on Thursday, outlining the beginnings of an FBI investigation into office practices and warning them to correct problems dating back to the primary
The letter, released Thursday evening, comes hours after Freed’s office announced the initial findings of the investigation, including the rejection of nine military ballots in Luzerne County The letter fills some of the spaces left by Freed’s original statement, including what prompted the investigation in the first place
According to the letter, Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis has asked the US Attorney’s Office and the FBI to open an investigation Monday after receiving reports of potential problems with a « small number of ballots. voting by mail « to the county election board
Freed said the investigation was still active, but due to the « limited time before the general election » he wanted to disclose his preliminary findings
FBI found « a number of documents relating to military ballots that had been improperly opened » by Watchilla election officials, Freed wrote. This meant the ballots were withdrawn and discarded, or withdrawn and placed separately from the envelope containing confidential voter information
The majority of the materials found in the investigation were found in an outside dumpster, Freed wrote
As previously reported, nine military ballots were found that appeared to have been rejected Seven of the ballots were outside the envelopes and were votes for President Donald Trump
One of the seven ballots may have been associated with an envelope that was recovered, potentially linking it to a specific voter
The other two unknown ballots were picked up by election officials, returned to their envelopes and resealed, Freed wrote.This is why investigators could not name who was selected from those ballots
This means that three of the nine retrieved ballots can potentially be allocated to specific votes, while six have been « just deleted and rejected, and cannot be allocated to a specific voter at this time, » wrote Freed
Aside from the military ballots in question, investigators also found four apparently official, bar-coded and missing ballot envelopes that were empty, Freed wrote.
Two of the envelopes had declarations and signatures completed on the back, Freed wrote. An envelope with a handwritten return address was blank on the back
The fourth blank envelope contained basic location information and the words « attached statement » on the reverse side, Freed said
Freed discussed the proper methods for processing military ballots, which includes secure storage of the unopened ballot until 7 a.m. at the earliestm on polling day
« Opening a military or foreign ballot, or a mail or mail ballot, for that matter, violates control laws and is against the guidelines of the Pennsylvania State Department, » wrote Freed He called the preliminary findings « troubling » and said the county election office must comply with applicable federal and state election laws.
« Even if your staff have attempted to piece together some of the poorly opened ballots, there is no guarantee that any of these votes will be counted in the general election, » Freed said « In addition, our investigation revealed that all or almost all of the envelopes received at the election office were opened in a natural way »
Staff told investigators the envelopes used for official overseas, military, absent, and postal ballot requests are so similar they believe that not opening the envelopes will cause them to miss the requests. voting, Freed wrote
« Our interviews further revealed that this problem was a problem in the primary elections – hence a known problem – and that the problem has not been fixed, » Freed said.
Freed said while the investigation is ongoing it is « imperative » that the issues be corrected Salavantis and Freed offered to meet with election officials to discuss the situation and promised to keep all documents, indicates the letter « Our goal, which you no doubt share, is to make sure that every correctly cast ballot is counted, » Freed wrote.
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