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Police: No foul play in missing ballots
MONROE - As far Monroe's police chief is concerned, there was no foul play involved in the 110 primary election ballots that were discovered missing on Aug. 25.

The missing ballots for the 17th Senate District Democratic primary race between Ernie Wittwer and Pat Bomhack were discovered by the Green County Board of Canvass Aug. 25 following a recount. Bomhack requested a recount after losing to Wittwer by seven votes following the Aug. 12 primary.

Bomhack has since been declared the winner of the primary, according to the Government Accountability Board, coming out 33 votes ahead of Wittwer for a total of 3,837 to 3,804. The district includes nine counties.

City of Monroe officials initially posited that the ballots could have been taken by an unidentified man who was allegedly seen outside City Hall on election night. But Monroe Police Chief Fred Kelley said Tuesday there was no evidence that indicated someone took the ballots. Police searched City Hall last week and came back with no ballots. They also interviewed all 17 poll workers present on election night and found no evidence of criminal activity.

There's still no clear answer as to what went wrong and why the ballots went missing.

"Procedurally I don't know enough about election rules to say anything about that," Kelley said. "The best thing I can tell you is that there is no foul play."

There was also a suspicion that a stack of unused ballots could have been placed on top of a stack of voted ballots and boxed up and then disposed of. Kelley said the ballots have not been discovered; he said police investigation centered on motives of foul play rather than locating the lost ballots.

Kelley also said the information from the investigation has been given to District Attorney Gary Luhman, but Luhman has not acted on or requested more investigation. Kelley said he does not think it likely that police will be requested to continue investigating the matter.

"I can't say that it's impossible, but I don't see any sign that we will need to continue investigation," Kelley said.

Luhman did not return a call before press time.

City Clerk Carol Stamm has reported before that the city will be making changes to election protocol before the next election to ensure this doesn't happen again. Stamm said they hope to have a police officer present on election night and that all unused ballots will be boxed up and moved out before the vote-tallying machine is ever opened.

Kelley said he may allow an officer at the door after polls close, but not the whole day.

"We might have an officer stand by while they seal the bags and when they take the ballots out of the bottom of the box of the voting machine. That seems like a crucial time period," Kelley said.

Wittwer has said he may be contemplating legal action to challenge the outcome of the recount.

The winner of the primary election will face Republican candidate Howard Marklein.