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Supreme Elections Tribunal official suspended following accusations of ballot theft

April 8, 2014

The Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) on Friday said it had suspended an employee for allegedly stealing “a few” ballots prepared for Costa Rica’s presidential runoff on April 6.

The TSE did not disclose the name of the suspended official, who was assigned to guard the electoral material. The TSE said it had security footage of the employee “acting suspiciously” at the company where the ballots were printed.

The full printing process by private company RR Donnelly was filmed by 32 security cameras. Anyone who entered or exited the facility also was logged into records, the TSE said in a press release.

“It was not an action aimed at orchestrating electoral fraud; the conduct displayed by this person does not indicate as such. In addition, only a few ballots were taken,” the TSE said.

Last Monday, the TSE denied a report by Diario Extra that ballots had been stolen after an anonymous source on Saturday night sent the newspaper an envelope containing three supposedly original ballots. The ballots contained registry numbers indicating they belonged to polling center No. 4,716, in the provincial capital of Liberia, Guanacaste.

The envelope also included a letter claiming that “many others like these are currently circulating throughout the country,” Diario Extra reporter Luis Zárate told The Tico Times.

The TSE’s director of the Electoral Registry, Héctor Fernández, on Monday said officials checked ballot bags at that polling station and all ballots were accounted for. “It appears to be a case of counterfeit [ballots],” he said.

The TSE said all evidence in the case was sent to the Judicial Investigation Police and the Prosecutor’s Office, which initiated an active criminal investigation.

The two candidates on the April 6 ballot are the ruling National Liberation Party’s Johnny Araya and Citizen Action Party’s Luis Guillermo Solís. However, Araya announced last week that he would stop campaigning due to a lack of campaign funds and polling that showed him trailing Solís by a margin of 44 percent. The decision set off a firestorm of criticism in Costa Rican media, and even within Araya’s own political party.

Costa Rica’s Constitution prohibits a candidate from dropping out of a presidential runoff race.

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