Two safes containing ballots for the special general election for House District 2 between Republican Mike Hill and Democrat-backed Jeremy Lau were stolen over the weekend during a break-in at the South Santa Rosa County Annex.
And no one is sure why.
Supervisor of Elections Tappie Villane says it really doesn't serve anyone's best interest to have the contents of the safe - it is all electronically tracked. Thirty-three votes filed early went uncounted due to the theft, but the digital recording mechanisms for voters have already identified the owners of those votes. Villane says offices have reached all but three of those voters, knocking on doors if necessary to ensure all votes are counted.
Santa Rosa Sheriff's officials are investigating the incident, saying burglars broke into the Service Annex and stole two safes containing ballots from the special general election.
The thieves pried a door open to gain access to the building, according to Deputy Rich Aloy. Security cameras caught the burglars using a dolly to remove the safes, which were estimated to be around three-feet-tall and weigh between 200-300 pounds.
"The safes were in public view," Aloy said. "As of right now, we really don't have a motive."
"The ballots that were cast on Friday and Saturday have been counted," Villane said. "They were put into the machine, but the thumb drive (containing the electronic votes) was in the safe as well."
Villane said votes from June 1 to June 6 have been tallied and the information is at the main county administration office. The thumb drive is missing that contained the early votes of 33 people - 19 votes from Friday and 14 votes from Saturday.
"Each day, during early voting, we have a daily report that goes to the State," she said. "We have (the voters') phone number and address. We don't know how they voted."
After discovering the theft Villane said the county started contacting the 33 people whose votes were stolen. She said with current technology, they were able to reach almost all of the voters quickly.
On Tuesday morning, there were three people the county was still attempting to contact, informing them of the situation and asking them to revote. The county was making phone calls and physically knocking on doors to make contact with the voters.
"We're working very hard to make sure that every vote counts," Villane said. "We started as soon as we could have."
Villane said they would be working with the state regarding any voters that could not make it the polls to cast their ballot again today. It was believed to be a light turnout for the special election today.
"We have no idea why (the ballots were stolen)," Villane said. "It's very unfortunate why. We are working very closely with the Sheriff's Office."
The Santa Rosa Sheriff's officials are investigating the incident.
Video link to security camera recording at crime scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdwjiowLWcY&feature=youtu.be