Someone broke into a ballot drop box in Klamath County and apparently threw the mail-in ballots into a nearby dumpster over the weekend, according to the county’s clerk.

The Klamath County Sheriff’s Office is investigating after around 240 ballots were taken from a box near the Klamath Basin Senior Center. The recovered ballots can still be counted, Klamath County Clerk Linda Smith said.

“The State Elections Division has advised that the recovered ballots can be processed and counted,” according to the clerk’s office.

The office is encouraging anyone concerned about the status of their ballot to call the clerk’s office. Anyone whose ballot may not have been recovered and who doesn’t turn one in before the 8 p.m. deadline today can’t vote in the primary, said Molly Woon, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins.

“As in all circumstances, if the ballot is not received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, it is not counted,” Woon said. “The Secretary of State takes this offense very seriously, which is why this sort of crime is a Class C felony.”

Klamath County voters are deciding whether to overturn their county’s ban on marijuana dispensaries. Commissioners banned the pot shops shortly after the Legislature allowed cities and counties to do so if voters in those jurisdictions opposed Ballot Measure 91 by 55 percent or more.

Voters in Klamath County are also deciding who will replace Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, whose Senate District 28 includes all of Crook and Klamath counties and parts of Jackson, Lake and Deschutes counties. Whitsett spoke to Republican Dennis Linthicum about running to take Whitsett’s place, but a group that includes U.S. Rep. Greg Walden and House Republican Leader Mike McLane is pushing a write-in Republican candidate, C.W. Smith, as an alternative.

Whitsett and his wife, Rep. Gail Whitsett, both filed for re-election in October. After Linthicum and Werner Reschke filed to run for the two offices, the Whitsetts backed out of the race the following day.

Critics said the move was deliberate and prevented voters from having a choice in the election. Republican Al Switzer is running as a write-in candidate against Reschke for the House seat.

Smith said she’s never had an instance of a ballot box being tampered with. The incident would have affected any ballot dropped off at the site between Friday night and Monday morning.

Marc Kane, executive director of the senior center, said he hadn’t heard of the incident and that the center doesn’t have surveillance cameras outside.

The secretary of state’s website shows where voters can find the nearest drop box, and they can also confirm whether their ballot was processed here.

Voters whose ballots don’t arrive at the clerk’s office can get a second ballot from the county clerk.

— Reporter: 406-589-4347,

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