EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 5, 2013

NEW UPDATE: Rivera beats Lantigua by just 60 votes for mayor

Police have been asked to guard ballot boxes

Staff Reports
The Eagle-Tribune

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LAWRENCE — City Councilor Daniel Rivera tonight defeated Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua by just 60 votes.

The unofficial tally released by the city nearly four hours after the polls closed at 7 p.m. was Rivera at 7,625 and Lantigua at 7,565.

City Clerk William Maloney did not release the precinct-by-precinct results nor would he say what the voter turnout was. There are 24 precincts.

"This is all you are going to get for now," Maloney said.

It was not know if Lantigua would ask for a recount. He barred many members of the media from his campaign headquarters near City Hall.

"They better post a guard at the ballots or we are going to have a problem," Rivera said.

The ballot boxes were in a vault inside the elections department. The door to the vault was sealed and the place was under armed guard by Lawrence police.

Rivera was at City Hall by 9 p.m.

A mob of jubilant Rivera supporters, many of them carrying signs and shouting gleefully, swarmed into City Hall starting at about 9 p.m.

Polls closed at 7 p.m. and it took almost two hours for the last ballot boxes to arrive at City Hall.

As early as 8 p.m. some Rivera supporters were arriving at City Hall suggesting the contest was going to be close.

The day's voting was heavily monitoted.

As many as four voting machines broke down – including one that broke twice - a poll worker was removed for electioneering and piles of campaign literature were dropped off inside polling places yesterday, but spokesmen for the Secretary of State, Common Cause and city police reported few of the more serious irregularities that occurred in September's preliminary election.

"It's been pretty quiet,” Pamela Wilmot, executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of Common Cause, which sent 30 observers to the city.

“We had a few problems we addressed in the morning. Those were taken care of pretty quickly. We were very pleased with how it's going and thankful the Secretary of State is there and we've been able to work with them in the city to solve minor problems that came to our attention.”

Wilmot said the campaign fliers for Lantigua found inside polling places “were promptly thrown out” and that the poll worker at the Guilmette School in District D2 who was advocating for a candidate also was removed. She was unable to name the worker or to say for whom he or she was electioneering.

Lantigua's cell phone was not taking messages today and so he could not be reached, but Rivera said it was “another chaotic day” of voting.

"It started with a bunch of machines down,” Rivera said. “At least four.”

He said when he happened upon City Clerk Maloney and attempted to express his concern, Maloney told him to “call City Hall.”

Voter turnout in Lawrence remained steady and high throughout election day.

At the Arlington School, 150 had already voted by 10 a.m.

"There has been a steady flow of people coming in and out already," Barbara Beland election warden at the Bruce School on Butler Street, said at 11 a.m. "I think it's going to be a high turnout."

At 5 p.m. there was a line outside Frost School's gymnasium of voters ready to cast their ballot. More than 700 people had voted at Frost School by 5 p.m.

Frost School also suffered from some technical difficulties throughout the day as well. A machine broke twice during the day leaving voters to leave their ballots by the side of the machine with a police officer present.

The first incident happened at 8 a.m. and wasn't working for about 20-25 minutes. The second time happened around 2 in the afternoon and was down for a half hour to 45 minutes.

Even if it meant waiting in a long line, voters expressed excitement over their chosen candidate.

"I'm voting for Rivera," Lawrence resident Laurie Carlisle said who voted at the South Lawrence East School. "I think he has potential to be a great mayor. Lawrence needs a change. Lantigua had his shot and now it's time to give somebody else a try."

Yelena Almante agreed.

"I think it's time for a change," she said after voting at Arlington School. "I am so disappointed in Lantigua. He is no good for Lawrence."

Maria Peguero said she has been a loyal Lantigua since the beginning.

"He's a good man," she said. "He cares deeply about the Hispanic population here."

Lawrence residents and activists Rafael Guzman and Wayne Hayes believe cameras that have been placed to catch people voting illegally have been working thus far.

"We have heard people seeing the cameras and then leave without voting," Guzman said.

Guzman believes some voters today who left after seeing cameras left because they legally couldn't vote in the city of Lawrence.

Cameras have been placed in several polling areas throughout the city after voting irregularities were noticed during the Sept. 17 preliminary election.

"It was chaos," Guzman said.

Guzman said after the preliminary election, he went around several different neighborhoods where the irregularities were noticed to conduct research.

"We knocked on doors and realized some people were not registered to vote or were from Methuen. That's why we wanted the cameras placed so we he can stop this from happening," he said.

So far the cameras seem to be keeping illegal voters away from the polls.

"We have gotten some calls saying people left once they noticed the cameras. If they're legal, they shouldn't have a problem with them," Hayes said.

"It hasn't been the same crazyness so far. During the preliminary, at this time places had like 600 votes already and today those same places have like 400. I think it's working," Guzman added.

Reporters Sara Brown, Keith Eddings and Mark Vogler contributed to this report.