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Missing San Francisco Ballots Recovered

Ballots found floating in pond may not be usable

A stack of ballots allegedly stolen Tuesday by a senior poll worker was found floating Thursday in a pond at the Palace of Fine Arts, but it's unclear whether the votes on the ballots will count.

Karl Nicholas, 50, who oversaw poll workers at a Knott Court polling place in the Crocker Amazon neighborhood on Election Day, was arrested early Wednesday morning and charged with felonies in relation to the alleged theft. Police did not recover the ballots during the arrest.

The 75 missing ballots were placed in a sealable bag that's provided to poll workers and tossed into a pond, according to San Francisco Elections Department Director John Arntz. A missing roster of registered voters was also inside the bag.

The bag was discovered floating in a pond on the "other side of town" from the Knott Court polling place and Nicholas' home, according to Arntz.

It's unclear whether the votes will count because a chain of custody was broken when they went missing, and because votes on the ballots might be illegible, Arntz said.

"There are some small holes in the bag, so the ballots are all waterlogged, but I can’t open it up until the [district attorney's] office gives me the OK," Arntz said. The ballots will be used as evidence in the prosecution of Nicholas. "But I can see from the outside that it seems like the marks for the votes are smudged from the water. Perhaps we could get some votes from them if we’re allowed to."

The department is seeking guidance in the matter from the city attorney's office and the California Secretary of State's office.

Electronic data in a memory box that was also allegedly stolen by Nicholas has not been recovered, Arntz said.

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