EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

January 29, 2013

Editorial: Voter suppression, Lawrence style

Whenever a “voter ID” law is proposed, opponents are quick to cry “Voter suppression!”

If people must produce a photo ID to prove they are eligible to vote, many — especially minorities — will be discouraged and turn away, the argument goes.

We don’t buy it.

But there is another form of voter suppression going on right here in Lawrence that has hurt the city’s majority Latino population and that no one seems to be doing anything about.

As Keith Eddings reported in the Sunday Eagle-Tribune, the city’s vintage voting booths have become so rickety over time that many are unusable.

How rickety? So rickety that Eddings witnessed a booth literally collapse under the pressure of a pen applied to a ballot during last year’s presidential election.

In a memo to the City Council, City Clerk William Maloney said Lawrence barely has enough voting booths to stage an election.

“Moreover, the existing booths will likely continue to deteriorate to a state of disrepair, resulting in a serious depletion of available voting booths,” Maloney added.

This sorry state of affairs could hamper the city’s ability to conduct the expected special election to replace secretary of state nominee and U.S. Senator John F. Kerry.

The September primary and November final elections, when the city will choose a mayor and other municipal officials, could also be affected, Eddings reported.

The decrepit voting booths have already been cited as a factor in the chaos surrounding presidential election voting in Lawrence last November.

City election officials said they were overwhelmed by the high turnout, though 54 percent is certainly no record for a presidential election.

But Daniel Rivera and other city councilors say the shortage of voting booths — and even pens (the incompetence runs deep in Lawrence) — contributed to the backup at the polls.

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