The FBI is investigating and Trump used the incident as a collection point.
He also said that district officials did not know which candidate was chosen on the ballot until the Justice Department publicly released the information earlier this week.
Lucerne district manager C. David Pedri said in a statement released Friday that a temporary independent contractor hired to sort mail at the polling station was “mistakenly dumped in UMOVA office trash ballot,” which is an acronym for ballot of Military and overseas voters is. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of Pennsylvania announced Thursday that nine ballot papers had been found in a dumpster next to the polling building, seven of which were poured for Trump and the other two were resealed in their envelopes.
“The Luzerne County Elections staff did not know who the ballots were for until they were announced via the US attorney’s press release on September 24, 2020,” the statement said.
The temporary worker started working at the polling station on Sept. 14, Pedri said, and the mistake was discovered two days later by Lucerne district election officer Shelby Watchilla.
“Ms. Watchilla immediately started an internal investigation and notified her line manager. The temporary independent contractor was retired and informed not to return,” Pedri said in the statement.
Following the internal investigation, Watchilla “contacted the Lucerne County Office of Law, which investigated the matter and indicated that this should be reported to the authorities,” following which an inquiry was made to the prosecutor.
Pedri said “all of the polling station trash” accumulated during the independent contractor’s three-day period “was placed in a dumpster and secured by Lucerne County staff.”
“Every trash bag from the entire building in the dumpster was searched by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the District Attorney’s Office, the Pennsylvania State Police, and Lucerne County officials. All items of concern were taken into custody by the Federal Bureau of Investigations,” he wrote.
Ballot envelopes cannot be opened until acquisition is in progress and it is the responsibility of the county to properly store and maintain the security of returned ballot papers in accordance with the Pennsylvania Election Code. Pedri said Luzerne County will “try to contact the voters involved and process their votes”.
The county, along with the State Department of Pennsylvania, plans to provide additional training to all employees and has installed a surveillance camera in the polling station to “actively monitor and ensure that all employees are strictly following proper procedures and protocols.”
A Justice Department official told ABC News on Friday that Attorney General William Barr had personally briefed Trump on the DOJ’s investigation before it was released on Thursday. The President went on to discuss the incident on Fox News Radio’s “Brian Kilmeade Show,” claiming without evidence that it supported his unsubstantiated claims of fraudulent mail-in polls.
Debating fraudulent votes during a Senate hearing on Thursday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said, “We have not seen coordinated national electoral fraud efforts in the past, whether by mail or otherwise, in major elections.”