Torrance police find 300 unopened recall ballots, with gun, drugs and mail, in sleeping man's car

TORRANCE, Calif. (KABC) -- Authorities are investigating why 300 unopened vote-by-mail ballots for the upcoming recall election were found - along with a gun, drugs and stolen mail - in a car parked at a Torrance convenience store.

The discovery was made Aug. 16 when Torrance police were called around 10:45 p.m. about a man sleeping in his car at a 7-Eleven parking lot.

"Inside the vehicle, the officers found a loaded handgun, some narcotics, and then they found a bunch of mail and what turned out to be over 300 election ballots in the backseat of the vehicle," said Sgt. Mark Ponegalek with the Torrance Police Department.

"They appeared to be in a box, but they were also kind of strewn across the backseat of the vehicle and so there was just a large portion of mail in that backseat."

Police say the man was a felon. The drugs found included Xanax pills and methamphetamine. Police say they also found multiple California driver's licenses and credit cards in the names of other people.

The man was taken into custody, but has since been released on his own recognizance. Police still don't know how he obtained the ballots and what his intent was.

"The election ballots, they were un-tampered with, unopened, a little over 300 of them found, primarily from addresses in Lawndale," Ponegalek said. "There were some from Compton. We're still trying to figure out where all these belonged to at this time so we're working with the Los Angeles (county) election office as well as the U.S. Postal Inspector."

The Los Angeles County Registrar's office tells Eyewitness News that these ballots for the Sept. 14 recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom had been sent out but were not filled out and returned by voters.

They said there is no indication the ballots were taken specifically in an attempt to influence the results of the recall vote, as there was other stolen mail found with them.

"There's nothing to indicate this was focused on the election," the county registrar's office said.

Voters can track the status of their own ballot - when it has been mailed, received and counted - at this link.

If a voter in the Lawndale or Compton area hasn't received their ballot, they're asked to contact the registrar's office and request another ballot.

The Torrance Police Department is also submitting the names and addresses found on the front of the recovered ballots to the registrar's office so ballots can be reissued.

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