Voters were puzzled by the few details in the press releases and the unorthodox way in which they were announced, and were concerned that the Justice Department said the ballot papers had been cast for the president.
“It is difficult to say how inadmissible the press release is. That’s the problem, “said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School, in an interview, noting that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for the department to investigate.
“It is really inappropriate for the DOJ to issue a press release with partial facts,” Levitt continued. “And it is inappropriate for career reasons to determine the candidate for whom the votes are cast. There is no federal law on which the identity of the preferred candidate depends. “
The White House also knew in advance of the division’s announcement. “I can attest to you that Trump ballots, presidential ballots, were found in Pennsylvania. And I think you should have more information about it shortly, “White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at her press conference on Thursday, shortly before the Justice Department’s first flawed announcement.
Trump himself appeared to have alluded to the same ballot papers earlier in the day in an interview with Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade.
“Those ballots are a horror show. They found six ballots in an office in a garbage can yesterday. They were Trump ballots – eight ballots in an office yesterday – but in a certain state and they were – they had Trump written on them and they were thrown in a trash can, “he said.
In an interview with Fox News Radio, Trump also appeared to link these ballots to universal mail-in ballot papers, which Trump calls “unsolicited” ballots. However, Pennsylvania does not send ballots to voters who do not request one.
The Justice Department’s revised statement said that Trump was conducting “an investigation into reports of potential problems with a small number of postal ballot papers” at the Luzerne County Electoral Board about 20 points in 2016.
“This is both bizarre and worrying – US law firms don’t publish reports of pending investigations – and certainly not reports that are so obviously fabricated as to add political baggage to a sitting president’s campaign narrative,” said David Laufman, one Veteran of the DOJ. tweeted about the press release.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ballot papers that are opened or discarded matter. In Pennsylvania, ballot papers cannot be opened until 7 a.m. on election day.
A letter from US attorney David Freed released after the statement contained some new details of the problem and apparently attributed at least part of the problem to the sloppy work of election administrators – who may have confused actual ballot papers with mere ballot requests.
“[O]Our investigation has shown that all or almost all envelopes received at the polling station were of course opened, ”says the Letter from Freedto Shelby Watchilla, the Lucerne County’s election officer. “Investigators were told that the envelopes used for official overseas, military, postal and postal ballot requests were so similar that staff believed that following the protocol for storing unopened envelopes would result in missing such ballot requests . “
“Our goal, which you will surely share, is to make sure that every properly cast ballot is counted,” concluded Freed.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, praised Freed’s work in an interview with CNN on ThursdayIt should build trust in voters. “We’ll have to wait and see what exactly US attorney Freed and the FBI and the local district attorney came up with, but I think that should give the public confidence to know that we are all doing our job in law enforcement.” Make sure that legal, legitimate votes are counted. ”
The Ministry of Justice investigated at the request of Stefanie Salavantis, the District Attorney of Lucerne. An announcement from their office on Tuesday said that the DA office “had been notified by the Lucerne County Administration of problems with a small number of postal ballot papers” and that federal agencies took over the investigation on Monday.
“The investigation is at an early stage and we are confident that it will be completed successfully so that it will not affect the integrity of the electoral process.” The announcement read.
District Attorney Romilda Crocamo said in a statement Thursday that Watchilla, the district’s election officer, initially reported the issues. according to the Times Leader. “The district administration immediately reported its results to the authorities,” said the press release, in which law enforcement agencies thanked them for their quick response.
Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.