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I-Team: Luzerne County completes inquiry into elections bureau

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Lack of training, as well as poor communications and planning. These are just some of the findings of a Special Elections Committee inquiry into the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections.

The report was made public today.

The elections Inquiry Committee was formed, in part, after questions and concerns were raised about the operations of the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections last September after 9 military ballots had been tossed into the trash.

A federal investigation found no criminal wrong doing, but rather lack of training of a temporary seasonal worker was what led to the incident.

The Elections Inquiry Committee found major flaws in the operations of the Luzerne County Election Bureau. The six page report is the end result of three months of meetings among the four-member committee.

Harry Haas is Vice-Chairperson of the inquiry committee.

“The findings was we didn’t determine that there was any significant fraud… that’s what the general public needs to know. There wasn’t like anyone intentionally set out to upend the election process here in Luzerne County. What it did cause was a lot of dropped balls,” said Haas.

The inquiry found that lack of training and guidance was a big issue.

“We had a lot of poll workers we found that was a big issue too there was not a lot of uniform training with poll workers and there seemed to be like there was a lot of human error,” said Haas.

And concerns were raised after it was learned that…

“It looks like dead people voted in Luzerne County. We always hear those old stories for decades back that dead people vote in Luzerne County. Well, it looks like it really happened here in Luzerne County and it’s an embarrassment,” said Haas.

But it was determined not to be a case of fraud. Inquiry committee members say it appears the ballots were mailed in and the people passed away before Election Day. It appears to be a small number of ballots, the Chairperson of the Inquiry Committee Linda McCloskey Houck tells Eyewitness News.

“It certainly is a concern. One of our recommendations is that the bureau have written procedures in place for verifying the life status of voters,” said McCloskey Houck.

County Manager Dave Pedri says many of these issues came about because of a perfect storm of a wide variety of factors.

“First off we had to deal with the pandemic, that was a major issue. Second, Governor Wolf mandated new machines so we had to change over entirely new machines with a paper trail that we had to input in 2020 election. For the first time in history of the Commonwealth, we had no-excuse mail-in ballots. It really was a perfect storm of issues that really came to fruition in a Presidential year,” said Pedri.

Pedri says he will work with County Council to resolve the issues of concern.

A spokesperson for the PA Department of State, which oversees elections in the Commonwealth, says that mail-in ballots are cast by a person who later passes away cannot be counted and that counties should have a system in place and work with the state to verify the person’s life status.

Contact the I-Team if you have an issue that needs to be investigated.

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