How Many Pennsylvania Ballots Can You Fit In A Trash Can? None, Really, But That Won't Stop Bill Barr's DOJ!

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It was a wild ride at the DOJ shop in the Middle District of Pennsylvania yesterday, with the Department of Jutstice putting out a breathless press release implying that nine military ballots for Trump had been thrown away in a nefarious plot. Then deleting the press release an hour later. Then reposting it to say seven Trump ballots and two unknown ballots had been discarded. Then issuing a letter admitting that this was probably an issue with poll workers, who tried to reconcile two conflicting ballot laws and called the FBI themselves to ensure that no one would think they were deliberately cheating, only to find themselves smack in the middle of the Trump administration's efforts to pretend that mail-in voting is rife with fraud.

SHIT. SHOW.


The Trump team had been teasing this big release all day.

"These ballots are a horror show," Trump blarped on Brian Kilmeade's radio show, according to Politico. "They found six ballots in an office yesterday in a garbage can.They were Trump ballots — eight ballots in an office yesterday in — but in a certain state and they were — they had Trump written on it, and they were thrown in a garbage can."

But Trump says a lot of shit, so no one even bothered to fact check it. Then Kayleigh McEnany said at her daily press abuse sesh that "I can confirm for you that Trump ballots, ballots for the president, were found in Pennsylvania. And I believe you should be getting more information on that shortly."

But she's also an inveterate liar, so ...

Then the first DOJ announcement dropped, warning "FBI personnel working together with the Pennsylvania State Police have conducted numerous interviews and recovered and reviewed certain physical evidence" that nine military ballots for Donald Trump had been discarded.

The whole thing is unforgivably corrupt on its face. Not only is it against DOJ policy to announce that it is opening an investigation, but revealing the candidate choice in an attempt to give credence to Trump's unfounded claims that Democrats are stealing the election is a blatant politicization of the DOJ.

As Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt told Politico, "It is hard to express how illegitimate the press release is. That's the problem. It is really improper for DOJ to be putting out a press release with partial facts. And it is career-endingly improper to designate the candidate for whom the votes are cast. There is no federal statute on which the identity of the preferred candidate depends."

But improper is Bill Barr's middle name, so here we are.

And these assholes couldn't even get their facts right! While Trumpland was running riot on Twitter claiming that they'd found smoking gun evidence of ballot tampering, the DOJ had to yank down its original release to note that they only knew the voter preference on seven of the ballots. They'd still failed to allege any deliberate tampering, or even make clear what election these votes were cast in. Was it the April Republican primary, in which case who the hell would bother to tamper with ballots in an uncontested election? Was it 2016, in which case, why did it take four years to start an investigation? Was it the 2020 presidential election?

In the event, it appears that Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, which Trump won by 20 points in 2016, began mailing out absentee ballots for this year's election to overseas military members before the rest of Pennsylvanians received them. And because the envelopes containing the actual votes looked so similar to the absentee ballot requests, nine of them were inadvertently opened and "spoiled" before someone in the Board of Elections office said OH, SHIT! WE BETTER CALL IN THE FEDS BEFORE THIS THING METASTASIZES AND THEY ACCUSE US OF TAMPERING WITH THE BALLOT! And immediately Bill Barr's goons came in and seized control of the situation in an attempt to "prove" that mail-in voting is not to be trusted.

Compare the original announcement from the District Attorney for the County, who makes it clear that the Board of Elections immediately contacted the FBI and took steps to resolve the situation, with the letter released by the DOJ, excoriating the Board and implying that it caught them redhanded doing something devious.

Here's part of the letter published on the DOJ's website by US Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania David Freed, in blatant violation of the obligation to STFU about pending investigations:

Opening a military or overseas ballot, or an absentee or mail-in ballot for that matter, violates the controlling statutes and is contrary to Pennsylvania Department of State guidance. The preliminary findings of this inquiry are troubling and the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections must comply with all applicable state and federal election laws and guidance to ensure that all votes—regardless of party—are counted to ensure an accurate election count. Even though your staff has made some attempts to reconstitute certain of the improperly opened ballots, there is no guarantee that any of these votes will be counted in the general election. In addition, our investigation has revealed that all or nearly all envelopes received in the elections office were opened as a matter of course. It was explained to investigators the envelopes used for official overseas, military, absentee and mail-in ballot requests are so similar, that the staff believed that adhering to the protocol of preserving envelopes unopened would cause them to miss such ballot requests. Our interviews further revealed that this issue was a problem in the primary election—therefore a known issue—and that the problem has not been corrected.

Ain't he a peach?

In summary and in conclusion, Bill Barr has broken the DOJ and is using it as a tool to help Donald Trump maintain his hold on power. Don't let him get away with it!

UPDATE: Turns out the Luzerne County Elections Bureau had a temp working in the mailroom who screwed up a handful of ballots before being fired. Elections officials immediately copped to the mistake, called in the feds, and offered remedial training to its whole staff. They never knew who those ruined ballots were cast for until the US Attorney broadcast it in his announcement implying that they'd tried to rig the election against Trump. Bill Barr — still an asshole.

[Politico / Letter to Luzerne County Bureau of Elections]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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