Forgive a Florida voter for being circumspect about mail ballots these days.
Especially John Loftus of St. Petersburg, who planted a pro-Obama sign in his yard, stuck a pro-Obama sticker on his car, and patiently waited for his mail ballot to arrive. Arrive it did, but without any of the presidential candidates listed.
In what appears to be a bizarre accident, Loftus opened his mail last week to find a one-page ballot for the Nov. 8, 2011, municipal election. The ballot he requested for this year's general election never came.
"This state is hilarious," Loftus said.
Loftus, 62, a former Justice Department prosecutor who accused the Bush administration of covering up the discovery of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is no stranger to conspiracy theories. But after considering the possibility that the ballot was forged in an attempt to suppress his Democratic vote, he decided it was likely human error.
An employee at the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Office convinced him it was probably a Post Office mistake.
"If this is intentional, it's so clever. There has to be some logical explanation," he said on Monday, contemplating the possibility that his ballot gathered dust for a year before someone sent it out in lieu of the general election ballot.
"There's just no way something from a previous election would slip in there," said Nancy Whitlock, a spokeswoman for the county Supervisor of Elections. Unused ballots from local elections are sent back to the city, she said, and there have been no other reports of residents receiving the wrong ballot.
Loftus urged vigilance. "People need to know to open their absentee ballots right now to see what's inside," he said.
Anna M. Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-893-8779.