SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ for the first month
SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ for the first month

'It's not right': Protesters call attention to 'incorrectly' discarded military ballots

Kathryne Rubright

WILKES-BARRE — Demonstrators gathered Wednesday outside the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections to protest discarded military ballots and call for accountability. 

The matter is under federal investigation. Nine ballots have been recovered.

The military voters’ ballots were supposed to stay unopened and be stored until Election Day. 

“For them to fill out a ballot and send it back in to end up in the dumpster?” said Teddy Daniels, a veteran who ran in the Republican primary for the Eighth Congressional District. “Guys, I wish I could make it up. But I can’t.”

Protesters gathered in front of the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections building in Wilkes-Barreon  Wednesday to call attention to nine mail-in ballots that were mistakenly discarded.
A protester holds up a Trump/Pence campaign sign at a demonstration held Wednesday, Sept. 30 outside the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections building in Wilkes-Barre.
Teddy Daniels, a veteran who ran in the republican primary in the Eighth Congressional District of Pennsylvania, points out a dumpster outside the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections building in Wilkes-Barre. Protesters gathered at the building to call attention to nine mail-in military ballots that were erroneously discarded.
Military veteran and former Congressional hopeful Teddy Daniels stands with protesters outside the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections building in Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday, Sept. 30. The group gathered to call attention to nine mail-in military ballots that were erroneously discarded. Many of the ballots were said to have been votes cast for President Donald Trump.

More:Voting in person or by mail-in ballot in the Nov. 3 election? Here's what you need to know

More:5 percent of Pennsylvania mail-in ballots could be rejected

Daniels said he expected more elected officials to show up. Walter Griffith, a county council member, helped organize it, and Andrew Holter, a Republican running for state representative in the 118th district, arrived later.

“Everybody including the press has been asking the question, ‘Who’s the person that threw them away, and how did it happen?’ And we’re not getting answers for that,” Griffith said.

The ballots were “incorrectly discarded” by a “temporary independent contractor” who is no longer with the bureau, according to a statement from Luzerne County Manager David Pedri.

Other states have longstanding vote-by-mail programs, Holter said, but Pennsylvania is just starting “and the counties have no resources. So instead of having a structured, foundational program that was built from the ground up to handle the influx of ballots, we’re having, as is the case in this situation, temporary workers being brought in to try to count them and then that’s when errors start to mount up.”

Pedri’s statement isn’t enough for Griffith. 

“If it was a mistake, fine, people make mistakes. At least come out and tell people what it is and get in front of the thing instead of giving Luzerne County more negative publicity,” Griffith said.

Related:AG Shapiro argues in federal court Postal Service changes could slow ballot delivery

More coverage:ESU professors weigh in on naked ballots, importance of debate

The board of elections, which will meet Thursday afternoon, should “motion that they’re running the elections, not the bureau,” Griffith said. 

“It’s time for the board to tell the manager and the bureau what they need, and let them execute their wishes,” he said.

The protest ended with a trip to the dumpster, where jokes were made about needing dumpster divers for the election and a man peeked inside and pretended to spot a ballot.

A sheriff’s deputy approached and asked the group not to touch the dumpster.

Of the nine ballots, seven are known to have been cast for President Donald Trump. According to Pedri, county employees didn’t know this until a press release from U.S. Attorney David Freed revealed it.

“If there were nine ballots for Biden that ended up in that dumpster, we’d still be here jumping up and down, just as loud,” Daniels said, “because it’s not right.”