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New Voting Controversy Emerges: 'Naked Ballots'

Pennsylvania also investigating improperly tossed absentee ballots from military members
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2020 8:56 AM CDT
Updated Sep 27, 2020 10:25 AM CDT

(Newser) – The battleground state of Pennsylvania is dealing with two controversies related to mail voting—one involving "naked ballots" and the other involving nine absentee ballots sent in by members of the military that were opened by mistake. Seven in the latter group were later found in a dumpster, and all were for President Trump. Coverage on both:

  • Naked ballots: Pennsylvania requires people voting by mail to use two envelopes—they stuff their ballot into a "secrecy envelope," then put that envelope into a larger one to be mailed back, reports the AP. If people neglect to use the inner "secrecy" envelope, the returned ballot is known as a "naked ballot."
  • Court ruling: The state's Supreme Court ruled last week that "naked ballots" must be discarded. Because so many people are voting by mail for the first time in 2020 and unfamiliar with the process, a top state election election is warning that up to 100,000 votes might end up being tossed, reports the Washington Post. The newspaper notes that Trump won the state by only 44,000 votes in 2016. Generally, more Democrats than Republicans are expected to vote by mail.

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  • Remember those? A post at Axios says "naked ballots" might become the "hanging chads" of the 2020 election, a reference to the ballot chaos that engulfed the 2000 election. The Democratic National Committee is so worried that it released a video detailing how people should handle their mail ballots.
  • Other issue: The second controversy is taking place in Luzerne County, where nine military ballots sent in by mail were mistakenly opened. They're supposed to stay sealed until Election Day. An investigation is underway, but one theory is that workers apparently mistook them for requests for absentee ballots, because the envelopes are similar, reports NPR.
  • In the trash: However it happened, seven of the nine ballots were found in a dumpster outside the office. The other two were re-sealed inside their envelopes. The US Attorney's Office of the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the FBI's Scranton Office are investigating, reports ABC News. In announcing the inquiry, US Attorney David Freed said the seven in the garbage were for Trump. One critic quoted by NPR says it was "quite improper" for Freed to go into such detail in a pending investigation, and another at ABC agrees, calling it a political move. Because the remaining two ballots were resealed, it's not clear whether they were for Trump or Joe Biden.
  • Trump takes note: The president mentioned the incident to a Fox radio host on Wednesday, calling it a "scam" and suggesting it was proof that mail balloting is vulnerable to fraud. "We want to make sure the election is honest, and I'm not sure that it can be," he said.
(Read more Election 2020 stories.)

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