Sources: Arrest in Ballot Tampering Probe May Not Happen

9:54 PM, Nov 1, 2011   |    comments
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Absentee Ballot Sent By Viewer Who Says A Vote Was Already Marked

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Multiple sources have indicated an arrest, while possible, is no longer "imminent" in the probe into possible tampering in the race for Erie County Executive.

The arrest was anticipated after the Erie County Sheriff's Office announced October 21 that the arrest was "imminent" because investigators had acquired "some valuable evidence" and were waiting for it to be professionally analyzed."

The investigation began after at least 11 residents in Lackawanna received absentee ballots by mail that were already marked for Republican County Executive Chris Collins.

Among the reasons for the possibility of no arrest is the difficulty of proving such a case, sources said.

Former Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark explained why.

CLARK: We already know that there were, like, at least 10 people in the Board of Elections, any one of whom could have done it. Apparently, we have no eyewitness, saying, 'I saw Jimmy do it.' We don't have anyone saying, 'Jimmy told me he did it.' So you're left to circumstantial evidence.

REPORTER: If you were still trying cases today, would you be able to able to successfully prosecute this?

CLARK:  If I looked at this as a case, the first thing I would do is cry.

REPORTER: That bad?

CLARK: Yeah, it's tough. Really tough. And, I'm sure the Sheriff's Department is doing everything they can, but they've got a tough nut to crack here... Not impossible, but improbable.

Mr. Clark was not referring to anyone in particular at the board of elections when he said the name "Jimmy." He was using it as a generic name.

We have repeatedly requested an interview with the Undersheriff since he announced an arrest was imminent. He declined our request again Monday night, telling us by phone only that, when there's new information, the department will let us know.

Initially, Collins's opponent, Democrat Mark Poloncarz appeared to point the finger at the Collins campaign team, posting on his Facebook page, "they will do anything, including rigging ballots to win this election."

After some sources reportedly indicated the ballot markings may have been the work of a Democrat who was working at the Board oF Elections, Poloncarz backed off from his accusation, calling for an investigation into the "trickery," regardless of which party was responsible.

The Collins team was nonetheless quick to pounce, pointing the finger at Poloncarz for engaging in "dirty tricks," going so far as to suggest a Poloncarz supporter was responsible for the markings in an effort to make Collins look bad. The result has been a back-and-forth election spat now making national headlines. Neither authorities nor elections officials have speculated that motive of whoever marked the ballots.

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