SAN DIEGO – The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and San Diego County elections officials are investigating after a half-dozen mail-in ballots and other unrelated mail were found last week along a local freeway.
Four of the ballots were recovered by a local driver named Brent Walters. He told FOX 5 in a Facebook message that he found them June 7, the day of California’s statewide primary election, as he was fixing a flat tire on his vehicle on state Route 163 near Interstate 8 in San Diego.
Walters said he picked up a small stack and took several photos “to be able to have proof to report to someone.” His concerns then were shared with the San Diego County Registrar of Voters Cynthia Paes’ office.
In an email, Paes said they collected four unopened ballot envelopes from Walters.
“We visited the site and recovered an additional two unopened ballot envelopes as well as other mail pieces unrelated to the Registrar of Voters office,” Paes said, adding that it was referred to the U.S. Postal Service as “a suspected case of stolen mail.”
It is not immediately clear how the mail ended up near the freeway, but a USPS spokeswoman said the agency’s law enforcement arm is aware of the report of recovered mail.
“Postal Inspectors are currently investigating the incident and unable to comment further at this time,” Postal Inspector Patricia Mendoza wrote in an email.
Every registered voter in California gets a vote-by-mail ballot sent to them ahead of elections due to a new law signed last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Under the law which made permanent changes instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic, ballots must go out at least 29 days before an election. Even with the law, voters still have the choice to vote or drop off mail-in ballots in person.
Last week’s election had implications for November with key races including for San Diego City Council, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, the mayor of Chula Vista and spots in Sacramento and in Washington D.C.
Those with information about suspicious activity involving the mail were asked to report it to local authorities or to postal inspectors by calling 877-876-2455.