EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 22, 2013

Editorial: State should provide oversight for Lawrence general election

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — The challenger facing Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua in the November general election is calling for state oversight of the city’s polling places and vote counting.

Given Lawrence’s history of electoral irregularities and a general mistrust of the voting process among some members of the public, state oversight is a good idea.

City Council Vice President Daniel Rivera, who finished second in polling Tuesday to earn a spot with Lantigua on the general election ballot in November, called on Secretary of State William Galvin to provide observers for all 24 of the city’s polling places on Election Day, to prevent a recurrence of what he called a “large number of irregularities” on Tuesday.

Rivera also wants City Clerk William Maloney, who oversees city elections, to be replaced with a state official. Maloney supervises the three Election Division employees and hires and trains hundreds of poll workers.

“I believe that Clerk Maloney is ill-equipped personally and allows his fear of the mayor to drive him to be biased,” Rivera told reporter Keith Eddings. “He should be removed as the lead election official and a state official (should) be placed in charge.”

Rivera said Maloney on Tuesday confronted him and told him he was within a 150-foot perimeter of the entrance of a polling place, where campaigning is not allowed. At the same time, Rivera says, Maloney’s poll workers looked the other way while Lantigua campaigned inside a polling place.

The poll workers Maloney and Lantigua initially proposed for this year’s elections included several city employees who were eventually stricken from the list because city workers cannot collect two city paychecks. Justo Garcia, a city parking attendant and Lantigua campaign aide who was indicted last week for skimming proceeds from the Museum Square garage, was among the employees taken off the list.

Pam Wilmot, executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of Common Cause, a non-partisan organization that advocates for campaign finance reform nationwide, told Eddings Lawrence is known across the state for elections shenanigans.

“We hear the name of Lawrence lots of times — for long lines, for potential discriminatory actions, for allegations of wrongdoing,” Wilmot said. “It’s in the news constantly.”

Lawrence residents ought to be able to know whether such campaign shenanigans are really happening in their city. But Galvin’s office has been less than useless in assuring Lawrence voters that their elections are free and fair.

Galvin sent two workers to observe Tuesday’s preliminary election. But his office declined to comment on what, if any, irregularities were observed. See no evil, speak no evil is a poor policy for elections observers.

Last year, The Eagle-Tribune reported that a handwriting expert the newspaper had hired determined that Rafael Tejeda, the bilingual coordinator in the Elections Division, had faked four signatures on nominating petitions for state Rep. Frank Moran.

Galvin first said he would investigate the incident, then declined. His reason: Tejeda denied faking the signatures, therefore, no investigation was needed.

If that’s the only standard of proof Galvin requires, the secretary of state simply isn’t doing his job.

Galvin now has a chance to improve his poor track of failing to provide Lawrence residents with the confidence they need to have in their elections. Galvin should grant Rivera’s request and send overseers to the general election in November.