EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 27, 2013

Clerk: Broken booths jeopardize elections in Lawrence

Maloney blames recent problems mostly on old equipment

(Continued)

Shortly after the election, Rivera sent Maloney a list of 16 questions about his planning for the Nov. 6 election, including how Maloney projected turnout, trained poll workers, supplied polling places and maintained voters lists. After receiving Maloney’s written response, Rivera summoned Maloney to the council’s budget committee last week for a meeting that lasted nearly three hours.

A few of the exchanges were testy, including when Rivera pressed Maloney about whether he calls the several city departments involved in elections, including police, public works and the schools, to joint meetings to coordinate their efforts. Maloney responded that separate meetings were more efficient.

“With my past experience in leadership positions, if you coordinate better, you have less problems,” Rivera said.

“I respectfully disagree,” Maloney responded. “I’ve been doing this for eight years and it really doesn’t change all that much. Coordinating the effort is really not the key as much as the function of having viable equipment and enough staff to man the polls.”

Maloney told the council the long lines on Nov. 6 were caused mostly by the high number of inactive voters - who are red-flagged on voting rolls because they have not returned their census cards or voted in four years – and was not due to understaffed polling places or poorly trained workers.

He said he hired 188 poll workers in the weeks before the Nov. 6 election, then hired 20 students from Northern Essex Community College on Nov. 5, after he determined turnout would be higher than expected. He said all but three of the 188 poll workers were trained, but said just four of the 20 college students were.

Maloney said he’s been frustrated in his effort to repair or replace the city’s stock of rickety, 70-year-old voting booths, which includes one used at the Partham School polling place on Nov. 6 that an Eagle-Tribune reporter saw collapse when a voter pressed his pen to it.

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