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A pivotal batch of mail votes went missing. Fraud!? Town is so sorry.

At a time when the hard-to-find intersection of mailed ballots and election fraud has become one of President Trump's obsessions, 202 envelopes in a town clerk's vault in central Massachusetts may get an unexpected amount of attention.

The ballots were from a local election last week in Grafton, where the people appeared to decide — by just 98 votes — to raise municipal taxes by $4 million to improve schools and local services.

The potential consequences of what's inside the envelopes are as mathematically apparent as the recent presidential polling in many swing states. (Tax hike opponents would have to account for three of every four uncounted votes, a deficit tough but not impossible to reverse.) The reason the votes weren't counted are much less clear, providing only minimal support for a presidential outburst on Twitter.

But nobody in power is yet crying foul in the town of 14,000 — where enormous metal parts for aircraft used to be forged, but now the economy relies on a clock museum and veterinary school.

Town Administrator Timothy McInerney said Tuesday that a sealed box containing 202 uncounted absentee ballots had been discovered by accident in a town hall vault on Tuesday by the assistant town clerk. The town is now asking a state court judge to decide what should happen next.

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Town Clerk Kandy Lavallee told the town council she is "deeply regretful" but that fear of Covid-19 exposure from voting in person made the volume of early ballots overwhelming.

She said she'd done an exhaustive search and found no more sealed ballot boxes — and that she'd detail soon precisely how fully 6 percent of all the ballots cast in the election were able to disappear for a week after the polls closed.

"We take this very seriously. We lost 200 ballots,″ the town administrator added, and everyone at city hall is working "head on" to make sure the mistake never happens again

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