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Merrimack Valley

November 4, 2012

Expert: Some nomination signatures were faked

(Continued)

If proven, this would add another episode to the troubled and tumultuous history of voting in Lawrence dating back at least to the 1990s, when the city settled charges of racial discrimination in election practices brought by the U.S. Justice Department.

The city settled the charges by agreeing to several reforms, including hiring a bilingual coordinator to assist Spanish-speaking voters, a position Tejeda has held since he joined the Election Division on Jan. 21, 2002.

The state ordered more reforms in 2006, and two years ago City Clerk William Maloney found a string of “irregularities and misconduct” at a polling place that cost an election warden his job.

Maloney, who oversees the city’s Election Division, would not comment on the allegations that one of the division’s three employees signed names on petitions that put a statehouse candidate on Tuesday’s ballot.

“What you’re suggesting has possible criminal implications,” Maloney said. “Certainly, any complaint or any allegation would have to be investigated.”

Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, who oversees elections statewide, also would not comment on the alleged bogus signatures. Ronald Martin, the chairman of Lawrence’s Board of Registrars, which must sign off on nominating petitions for local and state offices before candidates can reach the city’s ballot, also would not comment.

Moran said he collected several of the 180 or so signatures on his nominating petition, but said he did not carry the sheet that bears Tejeda’s signature and the four signatures in question. He said about 20 volunteers also carried his petitions, but could not say which of them collected the sheet with the contested signatures.

“I think Rafael (Tejeda) is a great person,” Moran said. “Good character. I don’t think he’d do something like that.”

The similar signatures were brought to attention of The Eagle-Tribune last week by Kevin Cuff, who is running as an independent against Moran, a Democrat and a three-term city councilor. Cuff said he was going to challenge the signatures last spring, but did not have the resources and let the June 1 deadline for challenges pass without acting.

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