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November 3, 2013

Scofflaw board oversees Lawrence election

LAWRENCE – The city is heading into Tuesday’s election with an elections board hobbled by vacancies, constrained by delays and vulnerable to challenges and with a two-year record of violating a core provision of the state’s open meetings law.

The board – which conducts recounts and rules on voter challenges at the polls and on the validity of absentee ballots – has no chairman and keeps no minutes of its meetings despite the state law, which requires all public bodies to “create and maintain accurate minutes of all meetings.”

The five-member board also has had as few as two members since Jan. 25. It now has three, just enough for the quorum needed to conduct business. When one of the three sitting members is absent, as has happened at least three times since the Sept. 17 preliminary election, the board can’t act.

Last month’s canceled meetings included one when the registrars were to begin questioning the city’s bilingual election coordinator about allegations that he forged signatures on nominating petitions for state Rep. Frank Moran last fall – an investigation that the board waited 12 months to open.

And as both Mayor William Lantigua and challenger Daniel Rivera warn that they will be on high alert for voter irregularities on Tuesday, one registrar who will be deciding which challenged voters can vote and which contested absentee ballots will count has been an active foot-soldier in Lantigua’s re-election campaign.

Registrar Ana Medina, whom Lantigua put on the board in 2011, has contributed $400 to Lantigua’s campaign this year, attended several of his rallies and fixed Lantigua bumper stickers and posters to her car and home.

Medina is not shy about her support for Lantigua: one of the posters in front of her Marston Street home is 32 square feet, more than five times larger than city zoning allows.

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