WILKES-BARRE, Pa. - Mail-in ballots have already been surrounded with controversy. Now, the U.S. Department of Justice says it has found evidence in Luzerne County of alleged ballot tampering after being alerted by the county's district attorney.

A letter sent to the Luzerne County elections board from U.S. Attorney David Freed with the DOJ says the FBI recovered a number of documents relating to military ballots that had been improperly opened by election staff and in some cases thrown out and found in a dumpster outside.

"Specifically, a total of nine military ballots were discovered to have been discarded. Seven of those ballots when discovered by investigators were outside of any envelope. Those ballots were all cast for presidential candidate Donald Trump."

It's unclear though whether those ballots were from the primary election in June or the upcoming general election.

The feds say these are ballots for the general election, and that they're working to ensure every properly cast ballot is counted.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro appeared to agree they were general election ballots in a tweet he sent out Thursday night, committing to a free and fair election. But in an interview on CNN later Thursday night, Shapiro said the ballots in question were from the primary election.

Regardless, the news did not sit well with local voters.

"The importance of mail-in ballots right now because we are in the middle of a pandemic, to watch the process be disparaged by corruption is extremely disheartening," said Mary Anne Valdez.

Others didn't want to jump to conclusions. Betsy Sommers said she was waiting to know more information about the issue.

Freed says the appropriate way to receive military ballots is to secure and store them unopened until Election Day when they will then be processed. He says additional ballots might have been mishandled as well.

Investigators continue to review the evidence. Freed says the DOJ's goal is to ensure that every properly cast ballot is counted.

69 News reached out to the attorney general's office for clarification, but has not yet heard back.

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