At least seven military ballots for President Trump discarded in PA

Mail-in voting sparks debate in PA

The presidential election is less than eight weeks away and all eyes are on battleground states like Pennsylvania. Board of Elections officials there are anticipating at least 50 percent of voters will vote by mail.

The Justice Department is currently investigating what happened to nine military mail-in ballots, which were discarded Pennsylvania.

At least seven of the ballots were cast for President Trump while the other two were sealed by Luzerne County before the FBI recovered them, a department press release said on Thursday.

The incident touched on widespread concerns about election integrity amid social distancing restrictions that arose during the coronavirus.

"It is the vital duty of government to ensure that every properly cast vote is counted," DOJ's release read.

On Monday, Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis requested the investigation, which involves cooperation with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office. Her office claims it opened an investigation after hearing about issues surrounding the ballots last week, on Sept. 17.

Republicans have generally resisted calls for mail-in ballots due to concerns surrounding potential fraud and error.  Democrats have pushed the mail-in alternative as a way to ensure voters can cast their ballots safely — although Axios reported on Thursday that party leaders are increasingly pushing in-person voting.

That could be especially problematic for swing states like Pennsylvania, which Trump won by less than a percentage point.

Luzerne has been held up as an example of Trump's appeal to swing voters. He won the mid-state county after former President Obama won it during 2008 and 2012.

State election officials recently sounded the alarm that thousands of votes could be tossed out in November after a state Supreme Court ruling last week that "naked ballots" cannot be counted.

The Court ruled Thursday that officials in the battleground state can reject mail-in ballots sent without a secrecy envelope, which prevents the poll workers from seeing how someone voted. The ruling rescinded previous guidance allowing counties to count "naked ballots," or those ballots not placed in the proper security envelope.

More than 100,000 ballots could be thrown out as a result of the decision, according to Lisa Deeley, the chair of the Philadelphia city commissioners. President Trump won Pennsylvania by just more than 44,000 votes during the 2016 election.

Fox News' Megan Henney contributed to this report.

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