EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 21, 2013

New election controls imposed

LAWRENCE — The board that oversees city elections is considering new controls on Election Division employees who engage in local politics, following allegations that a division employee faked several signatures on nominating petitions last year.

The Board of Registrars last week began work on a policy that would prohibit Election Division employees who sign nominating petitions from then certifying that their own signatures are valid.

At the same time, the registrars are continuing to investigate allegations that Rafael Tejeda, the election official who allegedly verified his own signature on petitions nominating Frank Moran for a Statehouse seat, also faked the signatures of at least four other people on Moran’s petitions.

A forensic handwriting expert hired by The Eagle-Tribune last year concluded that Tejeda signed his name and the four others on Moran’s petitions, including the name of a woman who lives next door to Tejeda and is not a U.S. citizen. The newspaper hired the expert after Moran’s opponent for the 17th Essex House seat brought the alleged fakes to the paper’s attention.

The expert, Ronald Rice of Plymouth, concluded that Tejeda signed his own signature and the four others, then used his position as an election official to fill in boxes at the bottom of the petition sheets certifying that all five signatures were valid.

“The style, slant and flow of the five hand-printed signatures and addresses are the same,” Rice said, adding that the four signatures match the penmanship of Tejeda’s signature on Moran’s petitions and on his voting card on file at the Election Division.

A spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin initially said he would investigate the allegations, then said he would not because Tejeda denied faking the signatures when interviewed by The Eagle-Tribune. The spokesman, Brian McNiff, said the investigation went no further than reading the newspaper story.

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