The Dutchess County Sheriff’s office is investigating the disappearance of an election seal that was holding closed a bag of ballots that have yet to be counted in the too-close-to-call primary between Sen. Steve Saland and Neil Di Carlo, a local elections official confirmed.

Erik Haight, the Republican elections commissioner in Dutchess County, said staff at the board noticed this morning that a “heavy plastic seal” was missing from one of the poll bags located in a supposedly secured room to prevent them from being tampered with before the official counting process begins.

“The staff told supervisors. We called the sheriff’s office, and the sheriff’s office determined nothing had been tampered with,” Haight said. “No poll bags were missing. The contents of the bag have not been tampered with. They’re looking into who took the seal. We have not found it.”

Haight recently told The Poughkeepsie Journal that the absentee and write-in ballots would be kept under lock and key until the count begins of the former on Thursday and the latter tomorrow.

As is usually the case in impoundments, only two keys were issued: One for the Republican elections commissioner, and another for the Democrat.

UPDATE: Haight contacted me to clarify: What’s missing is a plastic tag that was securring the door to the room where the poll bags, which each have their own tags, are stored.

The door in question does not lock – although that’s being remedied now. A log was set up to “monitor” the plastic door seal so the commissioners would know no one had access to the bags other than themselves.

The door seal remains missing. However, according to Haight, staff has been processing the poll bags, checking logs of how many ballots were contained in each against how many are still there.

The result: “Nothing is out of order. No materials are mising. No additional matterials have been added,” Haight said.

“Obviously, this is not the way we would have wanted things to go,” the commissioner continued. “But this incident will have absolutely zero impact on the outcome of the election.”

Paul DerOhannesian, who is heading up Saland’s legal team, told me “it’s too early to know” whether this breach of security will have an impact, adding: “We need more information.”

DerOhannesian, who has been around a while, also said he has never seen this happen before. He noted that unlike in general elections, New York law allows for primary do-overs if there are enough irregularities in the first go-around, although he didn’t suggest that might be the case here.

A mere 42 votes separated Saland and Di Carlo on primary night last Thursday.

The veteran senator faced his first-ever primary challenge in 32 years in office (10 in the Assembly, 22 in the Senate), thanks to his “yes” vote on the same-sex marriage bill that passed last summer.

The outcome of this race could have a significant impact on the battle for control of the majority.

Di Carlo is considerably more conservative than Saland, and if he or Saland remains on the ballot on a minority party line (Saland has the Independence Party line), they would likely split the Conservative/Republican vote, providing an in for the Democratic candidate, Terry Gipson.

Haight said 964 absentee ballots have been issued in the 41st Senate District race. So far, 29 Conservative ballots and 568 Republican ballots have been received by the board. (Neither Saland nor Di Carlo received the Conservative nod; Di Carlo mounted a write-in campaign for the party’s ballot line, Row C).

The deadline for all ballots is Thursday, except for military ballots, which get another seven days. The two sides are expected in court Monday morning.

NOTE: This post has been corrected to read DUTCHESS, not ULSTER, which happens to be my native county. You would think a Hudson Valley girl would be able to keep those two straight. Apparently not. Very sorry. -LB