A letter carrier could be in serious trouble after allegedly dumping ballot guides in a recycling bin in Berkeley.
Thursday afternoon, federal inspectors told NBC Bay Area that they have identified the person responsible but cannot release his or her name yet, as it is an ongoing investigation.
The U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General launched the investigation last week after a Berkeley man found 96 ballot guides in a recycling bin on the 1600 block of Walnut St. on October 12.
“I was astonished, and I thought pretty quickly that this is not right. They looked pristine, stacked and had just been bound,” said Scott Wheeler, who was looking for egg cartons to donate to his neighbors, who sell farm-fresh eggs.
Wheeler pulled the guides out of the bin before the recycling truck arrived, brought them to his apartment and called authorities. He says this incident, coupled with another voting snafu the previous week when he was deactivated as a voter because U.S.P.S. thought he no longer lived there, signifies a problem with either the post office or the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.
“It’s just a coincidence – serendipitous – that I was the guy who found the voter guides and one of the guys dumped off the voter rolls,” Wheeler said.
The Registrar of Voters says he has never heard of ballot guides being dumped in his four years as registrar.
“I think this is an isolated incident in this one particular area, and it’s been remedied and we’re monitoring the situation,” Alameda County Registrar Tim Dupuis said.
With regards to Wheeler’s suspension from voter rolls: “I’m only aware of one situation where we had a voter suspended because we received postcard from post office saying they were no longer living there,” Dupuis said.
Representatives with the Office of the Inspector General arrived at Wheeler’s home the same day he found the ballot guides and collected them. They were delivered to their addressees the next day, according to spokesperson Glen San Jose.
San Jose says inspectors have interviewed the letter carrier and hope to deliver the final report to the U.S. Attorney and U.S. Post Office next week. The individual could face termination as well as criminal charges.
San Jose says the letter carrier’s motive for putting the ballot guides in the recycling bin is unclear at this time.
However, Wheeler shrugged off current political rhetoric put out by the Republican presidential candidate.
“Certain people’s talk about voter suppression and rigging elections,” Wheeler began, continuing, “I think this is incompetence and laziness probably rather than a conspiracy.”