WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors announced they’re investigating “potential issues” with a handful of mail-in ballots found in a Pennsylvania county, including several cast for President Donald Trump, who earlier seized on the probe as a sign of voting troubles ahead.
Prosecutors with the Middle District of Pennsylvania said Thursday that investigators recovered nine military ballots that had been “discarded and then recovered” at the Luzerne County Board of Elections.
“Of the nine ballots that were discarded and then recovered, 7 were cast for presidential candidate Donald Trump,” according to the statement. “Two of the discarded ballots 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.”
The announcement was unusual because U.S. attorneys don’t typically confirm ongoing investigations. The statement came hours after Trump, during a Fox News interview, said eight ballots were found to have been thrown in a garbage can “in a certain state.” Trump said they had his name written on them.
Investigators revised an earlier announcement that said all of the ballots were cast for Trump. They said the probe is ongoing and that additional findings will be shared with Luzerne County officials later in the day.
Pennsylvania is seen as a battleground state coveted by both Trump and Democrat Joe Biden in the November vote. It narrowly went for Trump in 2016.
The president has repeatedly said that the widespread use of mail-in ballots is going to lead to election fraud and throw the results of the Nov. 3 vote into doubt. However, Trump on Thursday also urged Florida voters to register for and use mail-in ballots.
Dawn Clark, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney David Freed, said the votes for Trump were known because ballot envelopes were improperly opened by county staff. Under Pennsylvania law, ballot envelopes can’t be opened until 7 a.m. on Election Day.
Messages were left seeking comment from Luzerne County Elections Director Shelby Watchilla and the county district attorney’s office, which said in a statement that it was notified by the county administration on Sept. 17 “regarding issues with a small number of mail-in ballots.”
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