The FBI and the Pennsylvania State Police, investigating reports of issues with mail-in ballots at the Luzerne County Board of Elections in Pennsylvania, have recovered a number of discarded military ballots.
In its initial statement, the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday announced they found nine military ballots, all of which were case in .support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The DOJ later issued a revised statement, indicating that at least seven of the ballots were for Trump, but the remaining two were resealed inside their corresponding envelopes by Luzerne elections staff
The DOJ states the investigation has been ongoing since Monday and Election officials in Luzerne County have been cooperative.
It is unclear from the DOJ statement why the ballots were discarded and where they were found. The DOJ initially said some of the discarded ballots could be attributed to specific voters and others could not. In a Thursday letter to the Luzerne election office, the DOJ said three of the nine military ballots can be potentially attributed to specific voters while six of the ballots could not be attributed to a specific voter at this time and were removed and discarded.
“Our inquiry remains ongoing and we expect later today to share our up to date findings with officials in Luzerne County,” the DOJ statement reads. “It is the vital duty of government to ensure that every properly cast vote is counted.”
The news of the discarded ballots comes as Trump has raised concerns, on multiple occasions, about the potential for problems with widespread mail-in balloting.
President Trump, in a comment to reporters on Thursday, said eight ballots were found discarded in a waste paper basket and Trump said officials also “found a lot of ballots in a river.”
“They throw them out if they have the name Trump on it I guess” Trump added.
The DOJ announcement came after White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a Thursday press briefing that ballots for Trump were found discarded in Pennsylvania.
RealClearPolitics White House and Political correspondent Susan Crabtree Hennebury on Thursday tweeted, “.@PressSec says she will provide proof that mail-in ballots — votes for the president have been discarded in Pa. ‘I can confirm for you that Trump ballots, ballots for the president, were found in Penn., and I believe we should be getting more information on that shortly.’ 2020
.@PressSec says she will provide proof that mail-in ballots — votes for the president have been discarded in Pa. “I can confirm for you that Trump ballots, ballots for the president, were found in Penn., and I believe we should be getting more information on that shortly.” 2020
— Susan Crabtree Hennebury (@susancrabtree) September 24, 2020
Military absentee ballots have been a concern in the past. According to data from the Federal Voting Assistance Program, only 53 percent of military and overseas citizens’ absentee ballots were successfully counted in 2018.
The nonprofit group American Constitutional Rights Union (ACRU) has made efforts in recent months to help protect military votes but the organization said problems persist and 17 percent of deployed military service members were unable to vote at all in the last election due to an absentee ballot arriving too late or not at all.
“American Constitutional Rights Union has been warning about dirty tricks by local election officials suppressing military votes through our Protect Military Votes Project,” ACRU President Lori Roman said in a statement provided to American Military News on Thursday. “When we learned one in six U.S. military voters didn’t vote in 2018 because their absentee ballot arrived late or not at all, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, we realized that some officials at the local level have been engaged in fraud.”
This article has been updated with a new Department of Justice statement which revised the number of ballots identified for candidate Trump from nine to seven.