Federal investigation of mail-in ballots spurs buzz among local residents

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Federal investigators confirm they are looking into what’s being described as “issues” with a small number of mail-in ballots in Luzerne County. Eyewitness News first reported word of the probe on Tuesday. 

The people we spoke with, including the leaders of the Luzerne County Democratic and Republican parties, say the bottom line is the security and integrity of this election.

This investigation began September 17, when the county administration notified the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office that there were issues with a small number of mail-in ballots.

D.A. Stefanie Salavantis launched an investigation and also contacted the United States Attorney’s Office. On September 21, Salavantis requested that the U.S. Attorney take the lead in the investigation.

Justin Behrens is the chairman of the Luzerne County Republican Party.

“It pulls up a lot of concern that I have it’s been a concern of the republican party from day one. Again mail-in ballots making sure that it’s safe with what we are doing. As the republican party we are encouraging the public to go out and vote in person.”

Kathy Bozinski is Chairperson of the Luzerne County Democratic Party, she is pleased that the county called in federal investigators- because as in 2016, Luzerne County is seen as key to the presidential race and is being watched very closely.

“It depends on the nature of this. It depends what this really was and they are saying it was a very small amount of ballots, and again they obviously came in before any ballots went out or were issued by the state or went out through Luzerne County. So it will be interesting to see what this really is.”

Jake and Michele Matthews, of Drums, say they just want to be sure the mail-in ballot system is secure.

“I don’t know what to say about the Federal investigation. I don’t know if there were any instances of fraud or not. I think the investigation has to play out and see what happens,” said Michele.

“I mean if there’s a problem, then yes, it needs to be solved because we are far away from the election if there is a problem. Yes, they need to fix that problem,” Jake said.

Luzerne County Manager Dave Pedri issued this statement about the investigation:

“The county identified an issue and reported it to the authorities. We thank the district attorney and the federal authorities for quickly accepting our request and for their professional work in this matter. The county will work in cooperation with the authorities throughout their review.”

Federal investigators will not comment on the case, only to confirm there is an investigation into mail-ballots.

But keep in mind, mail-in ballots will not even be sent out until the week of October 5. So these issues may deal with the traditional absentee ballots.

State and county election officials say if you have any question about your mail-in ballots to check out the Department of State website.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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