FBI Finds Discarded Military Mail-in Ballots Cast for Trump

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news.
September 24, 2020Updated: September 24, 2020

Discarded mail-in ballots were discovered in Pennsylvania, authorities announced Thursday.

“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,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Pennsylvania said in its initial statement.

In a revised statement issued later Thursday, the office said seven of the ballots were cast for President Donald Trump while two others “had been resealed inside their appropriate envelopes by Luzerne elections staff prior to recovery by the FBI and the contents of those 2 ballots are unknown.”

Federal investigators, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI, launched a probe into potential issues with mail-in voting in Luzerne County on Monday, at the request of Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis, a Republican.

Salavantis’s office said in a press release that county administrators reported issues with some mail-in ballots that the Bureau of Elections received last week. The office started an investigation before handing it over to federal authorities.

Shelby Watchilla, the Luzerne County elections director, discovered the issue last week and “immediately reported her findings to the authorities,” Romilda Crocamo, chief county solicitor, said in a statement sent to The Epoch Times.

County officials are cooperating with the review but have no further comment because of the ongoing investigation, he added.

FBI seal
The Federal Bureau of Investigation seal is seen at FBI headquarters in Washington, on June 14, 2018. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
Biden and Trump
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, left, speaks to reporters in Wilmington, Del., on Aug. 13, 2020. On right, President Donald Trump before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on June 27, 2018. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images; Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

FBI agents working with Pennsylvania State Police have conducted numerous interviews and reviewed physical evidence, U.S. Attorney David Freed’s office said.

County election officials have been cooperating with the probe, according to Freed.

According to the county’s website, military and overseas voters can register and request an official absentee ballot at any time prior to a primary or election.

Luzerne County, with a population of about 317,000, sits in northeast Pennsylvania outside of Scranton.

The county went for Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012 but swung to Trump in 2016. Trump won it by 20 points, helping him secure the state’s electoral votes.

Matt Wolking, a Trump campaign spokesman, said on social media about the discarded ballots, “Democrats are trying to steal the election.”

Trump told reporters outside the White House: “We have to be careful with the ballots. The ballots, that’s a whole big scam. You know they found, I understand, eight ballots in a waste paper basket in some location. They found, it was reported in one of the newspapers that they found a lot of ballots in a river. They throw them out if they have the name Trump on them I guess.”

“We want to make sure the election is honest and I’m not sure that it can be. I don’t know that it can be with this whole situation,” he added later.

Trump has repeatedly warned of potential issues with ramping up mail-in voting to unprecedented levels this election, as have Attorney General William Barr and other officials.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany in Washington earlier Thursday pointed to issues that have cropped up with mail-in voting, including a botched election in Paterson, New Jersey and various criminal allegations in the state of California.

“In 2016, you had 1 percent of ballots thrown out, absentee ballots, that amounted to 319,000 votes thrown out. And if you have the entirety of the country voting by mail, you can imagine that number would be many folds higher than that,” she added during the press briefing.

Also this week, trays of mail, including absentee ballots, were discovered along a roadway in Wisconsin.