By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — There’s hardly a Republican on the ballot in today’s election, but the party yesterday called on Secretary of State William Galvin “to personally oversee voting” in the city following reports by one of his observers that the city’s preliminary election was plagued by “confusion and overall chaos.”
“The people of Lawrence deserve to have free and fair elections, and according to this report this is not happening,” state GOP Chairwoman Kirsten Hughes said in a press release, referring to the report Galvin’s observer filed the day after the Sept. 17 preliminary election. “This is Secretary Galvin’s primary responsibility, and since he refuses to address these illegal activities, he should travel to Lawrence himself tomorrow to ensure that citizens have the election process they deserve.”
Galvin has declined to say what corrections he is seeking in Lawrence today to guard against the irregularities his observer, Ramon Trinidad, reported seeing Sept. 17, when Mayor William Lantigua and City Councilor Daniel Rivera finished first and second in a field of six candidates for mayor and advanced to today’s general election.
Galvin’s office initially refused to describe the irregularities Trinidad said he observed, but released his report after The Eagle-Tribune requested it under the state’s Public Records Law.
In it, Trinidad said he saw city poll workers pencil in the names of unregistered people to the voting list and then hand them ballots.
Trinidad also said poll workers examined completed ballots, which he said could intimidate voters, and allowed candidates to walk around freely inside polling places.
He said poll workers were sometimes hard to find while campaign workers were prolific, polling places were organized in a way that confused voters, machines that assist disabled voters were shut down and documents describing voters’ rights were not posted as required.
Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Galvin, did not return a phone call yesterday seeking comment on Hughes’ request that he spend today in Lawrence, which has a history of voting problems that once brought federal intervention. In 1998, the city agreed to elect some city councilors and school committee members by districts rather than at-large to settle claims by the federal Justice Department that electing them all at large diluted the influence of Hispanic voters.
Earlier, Michelle Tassinari, director of the Secretary of State’s Election Division, said she would dispatch observers to the city again for today’s election.
Rivera has said Galvin should go further and take over management of the election from the city.
The Massachusetts chapter of Common Cause, which advocates for good-government reforms, also said it is sending observers to Lawrence today.