Ballot box security to be boosted following fire 

Galvin directs local election officials to enhance protection measures 

AFTER A MAN set fire to a ballot box in front of the Boston Public Library, officials are beefing up security aimed at maintaining the integrity of next week’s election. 

Secretary of State William Galvin issued a directive to municipal election officials Monday morning that urges them to improve the security of ballot drop boxes. 

“As Election Day approaches, there is increased concern over malicious attempts to interfere with ballots and ballot drop boxes,” Galvin wrote.  “A recent attack on a drop box in Massachusetts underscores the pressing need for local election officials to re-examine existing security protocols and, where necessary, enhance security of those drop boxes in the days ahead.”  

The Boston Election Department notified Galvin that a fire was set to a ballot box outside of the Boston Public Library’s main branch in Copley Square at around 4 a.m. Sunday. Worldy Armand was detained on Sunday night after police released a description of the suspect. Armand was also wanted on a warrant issued in Ipswich District Court for receiving stolen property. 

There were 122 ballots inside the box, according to the Boston Elections Department. Eighty-seven were legible enough for processing. Boston officials are asking anyone who dropped their ballot off at the location on Saturday to call the Election Department to determine whether their ballot can be counted. Those whose ballots can’t be read will be mailed a replacement and will have until 8 pm on Election day to return that ballot or vote in person. 

Galvin’s directive strongly recommends local officials add a security detail to drop boxes if they’re not under video surveillance. If there are cost concerns related to providing security, Galvin said his office may be able to help. He is also asking local election officials to empty drop boxes more frequently.  

Galvin asked election clerks to establish a clear chain of custody for collecting ballots, and to maintain a log of the date and time each drop box is emptied, who emptied it, and how many ballots were inside each time.  

The FBI is also looking into the Boston incident, which city officials have characterized as deliberate. 

“Our first and foremost priority is maintaining the integrity of our elections process and ensuring transparency and trust with our voters, and any effort to undermine or tamper with that process must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Galvin and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in a joint statement Monday. 

Meanwhile, US Attorney Andrew Lelling announced that Assistant US Attorney Eugenia Carris will lead his office’s efforts as part of the Justice Department’s nationwide Election Day program to promote the security of next week’s election.  

The longstanding program investigates possible election fraud and voting rights violations. That includes voter intimidation, stuffing ballot boxes, buying or selling votes, and other violations of federal election law.  

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

“Fair elections are the foundation of our democracy,” Lelling said in a statement. “Every citizen has the Constitutional right to cast his or her vote on election day free from intimidation, harassment and discrimination.”