Over 100 Mail-in Ballots Found Discarded on Sidewalk

With the California primary elections already underway, the Los Angeles County Registrar's Office and the United States Postal Service (USPS) are investigating an incident where a box of 104 unopened mail-in ballots was found on a sidewalk on Saturday.

The discovery of the ballots in East Hollywood was reported by local news outlet KTTV, and the L.A. County Registrar's Office said the incident was likely one of mail theft, rather than a direct attempt to interfere with the election.

According to the report, a woman named Christina Repaci initially came across the box on Saturday while walking her dog. "I turned the corner and I just saw this box of envelopes, and it was a USPS box," Repaci told KTTV. "I picked some envelopes up and I saw they were ballots."

After taking them home for safekeeping, Repaci attempted to contact the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and several politicians. She also sent videos of the ballots to popular social media accounts.

"I actually called the Sheriff's Department, I couldn't get through, so I emailed them," she told KTTV. "I got an email back from a deputy saying—well, not in so many words—but basically, it wasn't their problem, contact the USPS."

The L.A. County Registrar's Office reached out to Repaci to retrieve the ballots, with Registrar Dean Logan driving over to pick the ballots up himself.

"I made sure he was legit," Repaci told KTTV. "He gave me a card, and took a photo of the box."

California primary elections voter information booklet
A woman in East Hollywood, California found a box of over 100 mail-in ballots on a sidewalk on Saturday. Pictured, a voter information booklet for the 2022 U.S. primary elections can be seen in Lafayette, California on May 6, 2022. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The L.A. County Registrar's Office said security protocols are in place to "protect against any misuse or wrongdoing" of mail-in ballots, and urged voters to report potential disruptions to the voting process directly to its office.

"Our office was notified over the weekend of a mail tray found containing approximately 104 unopened, outbound Vote by Mail ballots and additional mail pieces," the L.A. County Registrar's Office said in a statement. "Thanks to the cooperation of the person who found the ballots, we were able to quickly respond and coordinate the secure pickup of the ballots."

"We have reissued new ballots to the impacted voters," the statement continued. "Early signs indicate that this was an incident of mail theft and not a directed attempt at disrupting the election. We are cooperating with the United States Postal Service and law enforcement to investigate."

In a statement to Newsweek, USPS said it is "aware of unopened mail-in ballots found by a Los Angeles citizen" and added it has contacted the United States Postal Inspection Service for a follow-up.

"Utilizing proven mail-fraud detection and loss prevention strategies and countermeasures, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, as the federal law enforcement and security arm of the Postal Service, actively identifies attempts to compromise the mail system on which our nation depends," USPS said in its statement.

"In doing so, the Inspection Service works closely with our state and local law enforcement partners, as well the Postal Service's Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to respond to and investigate election crimes involving the U.S. Mail."

Repaci told KTTV the ordeal was "stressful."

"It was so much stress and for just one person to get back to me," she said. "What do I do here? Now if it happens to someone else, they don't know what to do. They'll just put them in a dumpster or throw them in the trash."

"I just don't think it should have been this hard to figure out what to do with legal ballots, she continued. "This is a country of freedom and our votes should matter and something like this should never happen."

Update 05/11/22, 2:08 a.m ET: This article was updated to add a statement by USPS.