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October 23, 2013

State report details voting 'chaos' in Lawrence

LAWRENCE — An observer sent by the state to monitor last month’s preliminary election reported finding “confusion and overall chaos” at several polling places, where he said election workers gave ballots to people not on the voter rolls, examined completed ballots and allowed candidates to walk around freely inside.

The alleged irregularities may have been most widespread at the Valebrook Apartments on Union Street, where observer Ramon Trinidad said he found “chaos, electioneering and overall disruption of the election process.”

“It was hard to see where the lines went and it was easy for people to enter the voting area to ‘help’ voters with their ballot,” Trinidad said about the polling place, which serves precinct B4 and gave Mayor William Lantigua 64 percent of the vote against five other candidates in the Sept. 17 election. “This included a candidate who was on the ballot being in the voting area and freely walking around the polling place greeting and meeting people.”

Trinidad did not identify the candidate in his report and would not comment when reached yesterday. His report said he saw the candidate “interfering with the election process,” but provided no details.

Trinidad also reported seeing poll workers who seemed to be telling voters how to vote and observers working for candidates intermingling with poll workers in ways that made them indistinguishable. He said cramped and poorly laid out polling places invited the irregularities and added to the confusion.

Trinidad also said City Clerk William Maloney, the city’s top election official, told him he found a warden who was “writing in voters’ names on the voters list who were not on there to begin with and allowing them to vote.”

Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, responded to the report yesterday by saying her organization would consider sending a team of lawyers and other observers to Lawrence for the general election on Nov. 5, when voters will choose between Lantigua and City Councilor Daniel Rivera and also will elect a City Council and two school committees. She said the irregularities Trinidad identified are “very concerning.”

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