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Stolen Ballots Won't Be Counted

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Batch of ballots found floating in pond was too small to influence election outcomes, official says

Votes cast on a batch of San Francisco ballots that was bizarrely swiped on Election Day from a polling place and dumped in a pond on the other side of town will not be counted, city and state elections officials determined.

Alleged thief Karl Nicholas, a 50-year old San Francisco resident, is sitting in a San Francisco jail awaiting trial.

The poll worker, who allegedly disappeared from the residential Crocker Amazon polling place at the same time that the ballots and other material was snatched, is facing felony counts of tampering with election equipment and stealing election material.

A judge recently dismissed a third charge, that of disrupting a government computer system, and reduced Nicholas' bail from $100,000 to $50,000, according to Tamara Aparton, the spokeswoman for the San Francisco Public Defender's Office. 

Nicholas was still being held in county jail on Tuesday, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

San Francisco elections chief John Arntz said 67 ballots were affected.

Arntz said a police photographer was present when he opened a soggy bag filled with the missing ballots, which maintenance workers fished out of a pond at the Palace of Fine Arts after the election.

“They wanted to make sure the police department was present when I opened that bag,” Arntz said.

The ballots were legible, but they won’t count because an official chain of custody was broken, according to Arntz.

“We wanted to count them,” Arntz said. “We spoke with the Secretary of State’s office and we went through the situation with them. The break in the chain of custody was such that it wasn’t accidental or inadvertent — it was purposeful and illegal.”

No election outcomes could have been swayed by the small number of invalidated ballots, according to Arntz.

The ballots are being stored in a locked room at City Hall, Arntz said.

Correction: This article initially misnamed the neighborhood Cracker Amazon. It has been corrected.

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