Eight people posed as election officials and took about 245 ballots from a Pacoima polling station early Wednesday, authorities said.
The ballots were returned hours later to the Los Angeles County registrar's office in Commerce by a man identifying himself as a "Yes on Proposition V" spokesman, an election official said. The man quickly left the office after dropping off the ballots.
The special investigations division of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office was trying to determine whether the ballots were tampered with and if they had been taken by mistake.
"We're trying to keep an open mind about this," district attorney's investigator Steven A. Sowders said. "We can't really say they were stolen, but we don't have a motive right now."
Posed as Officials
The eight people, dressed in civilian clothes, appeared at a polling station at 10608 Telfair Ave. in Pacoima at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sowders said. They said they were election officials who were supposed to take the ballots to a collection station and were given three brown envelopes containing the ballots, Sowders said.
The Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies authorized to pick up the ballots arrived just after the group left. The ballots were to have been taken to a collection point at San Fernando Junior High School.
Rosa Garcia, a spokeswoman for the registrar's office, said a young man identifying himself as a "Yes on Proposition V" official delivered the envelopes at 10 a.m. and left the office before he could be questioned.
Proposition V was an unsuccessful Los Angeles city ballot measure aimed at lobbying the federal government for a reduction in military spending and for using the savings on community needs.
"We think it might be a prank," said Los Angeles Police Detective Robert Stemples, who was also investigating the incident. "Just an outrageous, illegal prank."