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The Arizona Republic

FBI seizes ballots in close '04 legislative race

Feb. 1, 2006
By Casey Newton

Federal authorities seized ballots cast in a 2004 Republican primary on Wednesday, ...

FBI agents met with staff members from the Maricopa County Treasurer's Office in the afternoon to take control over the ballots, which have been stored in a secure air-conditioned facility near Sky Harbor International Airport.

At issue is the outcome of the close race between John McComish and Anton Orlich. ...

... A review of the ballots last month by Douglas Jones, a University of Iowa computer scientist, said Jones could not rule out the possibility of fraud unless he examined the ballots.

County Treasurer David Schweikert refused to release them, saying he needed a valid court order before he would relinquish control.

On Tuesday, he got one.

"We were just elated," Schweikert said of the moment his secretary called him to say that there were FBI agents waiting for him in his office. "I know it sounds odd to be elated to receive a subpoena, but it was what we'd all been asking for."

Sandy Raynor, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix, said she could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation into the District 20 election.

But county officials who are working with the agents say the Department of Justice plans to inspect the ballots. County officials say they have not been told how long the federal investigation will take.


In addition to the ballots, the subpoena Schweikert received requested the original envelopes in which early ballots were cast and mailers in which ballots and envelopes were placed.


"It was always a question of process," said Barnett Lotstein, special assistant county attorney. "We were looking for an independent evaluation and an evaluation by an appropriate body. Having the feds look at those ballots is something that we're pleased with. . . . It will answer whatever questions there are by Mr. Harper or anyone else."