EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 22, 2013


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — It is clear that those who are charged with maintaining the integrity of elections at both the state and local level simply do not care.

Until officials show a willingness to insist that elections are fair and free of insider shenanigans, we can expect voter uncertainty about the integrity of the balloting process to remain high. And that surely is one factor that results in low voter turnout at the polls.

A prime example of this comes from Lawrence, where neither state nor local officials could be prodded into doing much of consequence over allegations that a city Election Division employee faked several signatures on nominating petitions last year.

The allegation is that Election Division employee Rafael Tejeda verified his own signature and faked four others on nominating petitions for Frank Moran, who went on to win the 17th Essex seat in the state House of Representatives.

A handwriting expert hired by The Eagle-Tribune last year concluded that Tejeda signed his name and four others on Moran’s petition, including the name of a woman who is not a U.S. citizen.

Tejeda then used his position as an election official to certify that all five signatures were valid.

The office of Secretary of State William Galvin, which is responsible for oversight of elections in the state, initially said there would be an investigation into the petitions. But then Galvin’s office reversed itself saying there was no need for an investigation as Tejeda, in The Eagle-Tribune’s story on the incident, denied faking the signatures.

The alleged perpetrator of an election fraud says he didn’t do it. Case closed.

The only question remaining is why Galvin would attempt to justify his own inaction with an excuse so lame.

Now, 11 months later, the Lawrence Board of Registrars has begun its own investigation. Tejeda told the board that the signatures — including his own name — were not his at all but were signed by one of the two women who were carrying the petition.

“I was leaving when they arrived,” Tejeda told reporter Keith Eddings about what he told the women when they approached him outside his Greenwood Street home. “Two ladies. I said, ‘Go inside. Tell my wife I have no problem (if his wife signs for him).’”

The Board of Registrars voted to direct City Clerk William Maloney to draft a policy “that prohibits any employee of the Lawrence Election Division from reviewing and certifying their own signatures.”

So Election Division employees can no longer certify their own signatures. Left unresolved is the question of why Election Division employees should be signing nominating petitions at all.

Why does this matter? Moran won his election handily — so no harm, no foul, right?

Wrong. It matters because in a nation of laws, we expect people to follow the rules.

That Moran, a Democrat, won a House seat from heavily Democratic Lawrence is no surprise. But that was only the final stage of the electoral process. For many candidates, getting enough people to sign their names to petitions in the nominating process is the greater hurdle.

And if no one is willing to assure that such shenanigans as faked signatures on nominating petitions will not be tolerated, what confidence can we have in the rest of the electoral process?

The integrity of our elections must be guaranteed. It is shameful that those we entrust with oversight of elections cannot be bothered to enforce that guarantee.