---- — One of the main duties of the secretary of state in Massachusetts is to ensure the integrity of elections. Secretary of State William Galvin has recently demonstrated he is unwilling or uninterested in performing that duty.
Galvin last week decided not to investigate allegations of faked signatures on nominating petitions filed last year for then state representative candidate Frank Moran, a Lawrence Democrat. Moran went on to win election in November and is now the state representative for the 17th Essex District. He is also president of the Lawrence City Council.
This matter is particularly serious as it is alleged that Rafael Tejeda, a city election official, is the one who faked the signatures on the petition.
The Eagle-Tribune hired a forensic handwriting expert to examine five signatures on the petition. The expert, Ron Rice of Plymouth, concluded that Tejeda signed all five of the signatures, then used his position as an election official to fill in boxes at the bottom of the petition sheets validating the signatures. Tejeda himself also signed Moran’s petitions.
The story was reported on Nov. 4. The next day, Galvin’s spokesman told the State House News Service the secretary would look into the allegations. That “investigation” never went beyond reading The Eagle-Tribune story, according to Galvin’s spokesman Brian McNiff.
Among Galvin’s reasons for rejecting a full investigation: Tejeda said in the story that he didn’t forge the signatures.
“Forging the names of voters to nomination papers is a serious matter,” McNiff said in an email to reporter Keith Eddings. “But after reviewing accounts of the allegedly forged signatures on nomination papers of a candidate for state representative in Lawrence, reported the weekend before the Nov. 6, 2012 election, the accounts, which include a denial from the alleged perpetrator, remain simple (sic) that, allegations.”
Well, there’s one way to clear the backlog of judicial and regulatory cases: If the accused says he didn’t do it, toss out the case. Unbelievable.
Galvin’s logic was lost on the handwriting expert.
“I would expect him to deny that he authored the signatures,” Rice told Eddings. “In 35 years, I don’t think I’ve had anyone acknowledge that they (committed) forgery.”
Kevin Cuff, the Andover independent who challenged Moran for the 17th Essex seat and first called attention to the signatures, said the forgeries were obvious. He was critical of Galvin’s decision to pass on an investigation, saying it “speaks volumes of the lack of accountability and common sense out of the Secretary of State’s office.”
He added: “Most importantly, how we are going to go forward to conduct future elections, particularly an upcoming mayoral election, knowing that the city election department is corrupt?”
Tejeda, meanwhile, may be rewarded for his efforts. Mayor William Lantigua has proposed redefining Tejeda’s position as bilingual coordinator to expand its responsibilities and increase its salary from the $30,000 Tejeda now earns to as much as $55,000.
Elections are the heart of the democratic process in our country. People must have confidence that they are honest and fair, or they will lose confidence in government as a whole.
Maintaining the integrity of elections in Massachusetts is the job of the secretary of state. Galvin isn’t doing the job.
Galvin has been secretary of state since 1995. He skates to re-election every four years. He has, most recently in 2010, earned our endorsement.
But Galvin’s refusal to take seriously an allegation of fraud against a Lawrence election official raises questions about his suitability for this office. It is time for Massachusetts voters to begin looking for other qualified candidates for this important post.