Save Our State of Massachusetts
After pursuing a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, Jim McKenna, former candidate for Massachusetts Attorney General was told that his concerns should be addressed at the state level. McKenna has sent three letters to the Commonwealth’s Chief Election Officer, Secretary of State William F. Galvin stating, among other issues, that “… hundreds, probably thousands, of votes were not counted during the 2010 primary for the Republican nomination for Attorney General.” McKenna’s concern stems not from what has happened in the past, or in his particular race, but what it tells of the future, and of concern over the vast number of voters disenfranchised by votes either not being counted, or outright thrown away.
McKenna documented that in Worcester, the reports generated by the election officials did not accurately reflect what occurred in the voting booths in that the precinct reports suggested 14 precincts had hundreds of votes cast, but none of those votes were for the candidates. He further identified voters from some precincts where the votes were counted, but some were not. This was ascertained by discovering individuals that had cast votes for his opponent, yet in the final tally Worcester election officials for that precinct indicated that his opponent did not receive any votes there.
The precinct reports for Boston suggested the same problem, i.e., hundreds of votes cast in precincts where NO votes were reported for the candidates. In Springfield McKenna claimed, “the detailed data on the city website presents a very troubling problem…” The data suggested that there was no direct relation between the votes cast and the election results reported by the Springfield election officials. McKenna went on to conclude “The Springfield precinct reports specify how many write-in votes were cast in each precinct, yet do not specify for whom those votes were cast. Nevertheless, the Springfield election officials reported results for the candidates – despite the lack of support for those results in the precinct reports.” [emphasis added]
Whereas other communities in Western Massachusetts – Westfield, Pittsfield, and West Springfield – were able to count 90% or more of the write-in vote; the report submitted by Springfield election officials indicated that they counted 14%. A FOIA Request as to whether the Springfield officials had election data other than what was listed on the city’s website was in violation of G.L. c. 66, § 10(a), which requires officials to respond within 10 days. Based on the statutory breach, McKenna filed a petition pursuant to G.L. c. 66, § 10(b), with Galvin’s office’s supervisor of records, seeking an order requiring compliance with the statute, and attached a copy of that petition in his first letter to Galvin. The response to McKenna’s FOIA request from the city of Springfield dated September 30, 2011 was responded to on December 11, 2011, and was not good news. It included the following:
Recent significant weather events in Springfield caused flooding of the place of storage of the individual tally sheets and many other documents. In the process of retrieving the documents from storage and later returning the documents to storage, the individual tally sheets were mistakenly discarded and are no longer available.
Write-in auditors completed tabulations from the actual ballots on the night of the election. After due and diligent search, these documents cannot now be located.
On January 5, 2012, McKenna requested an accounting of any and all documents “damaged, destroyed, or discarded as the direct or indirect result of any
significant weather events.” A more timely reply, though still not within the 10 days specified by FOIA laws, was dated January 20th. It read:
After due and diligent search, the City is not able to locate any documents that are responsive to your request.
In accordance with election laws, ballots from the September 14,2010, State Primaries are sealed on election night and retained for the statutory period. Because the federal office of Representative in Congress appeared on the state primary ballot, federal law dictates that ballots, and all other election materials are to be retained by local election officials for twenty-two (22) months following the election.
See, 42 U.S.C. § 1974. Section 1974 states in part, Every officer of election shall retain and preserve, for a period of twenty-two months from the date of any general,
special, or primary election of which candidates for the office of … Member of the House of Representatives… are voted for, all records and papers which come into his possession relating to … voting in such election… 42 U.S.C. § 1974
The counting of ballots in all elections in Massachusetts is done by local election officials in accordance with the General Laws and Code of Massachusetts Regulations. This requires that all write-in votes must be counted by the poll workers at each polling place after the polls close. See G. L. c. 54, §§ 105, 105A (2010 ed.)
(proceedings at the close of polls and counting of ballots); 950 CMR § 52.04 (counting of votes); 950 CMR § 54.06(8) (examining ballots); 950 CMR §
54.06(9) (read and record write-ins and ballots segregated by the vote tabulator).
Galvin’s office claims that “before each primary and election, his Office provides very specific instructions to local election officials regarding the requirements and
responsibilities for counting and recording write-in votes. This was said to be done again before the September 14, State Primaries … Galvin’s office went on to say “While each candidate has statutory recourse available to them should they believe that the result of their election is erroneous under General Laws chapter 54, section 135, there is a process available to each candidate to petition for a recount after the applicable election, during which the ballots would be unsealed and re-counted, by hand, if requested. See G. L. c. 54, § 135 (2010 ed.) (recount process).” That point is, of course, moot at this juncture, but what of what went on in the general election, and what will likely continue into the upcoming 2012 elections?
The election results from Boston, Lawrence and Springfield indicated three-quarters of the voters in those cities were disenfranchised by not having their votes counted. In each of those four cities, the extent of the problem can only be defined conclusively by an analysis of the ballots. Therefore McKenna has requested that ballots cast in Worcester, Springfield, Boston, and Lawrence be secured so that the particulars of the problem can be more fully defined, and the problems corrected. McKenna added: “… the principles that underlie democracy demand nothing less.”
McKenna’s three letters to Galvin spanned September and October of 2011, and to date there is no indication that an investigation into this matter is being undertaken, thus prompting that McKenna sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Ortiz, requesting an investigation. That letter can be read here: https://sosmass.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/mckenna-calls-for-investigation/.
Meanwhile, “Former Southie Rep. Brian Wallace said the Attorney General’s Office crusade to make him a poster boy for breaking campaign finance laws has been a “nightmare”…“ It should be noted that Wallace’s fundraising was miniscule by comparison to the vast majority of other campaigns, but it appears his violation of campaign finance law is taken much more seriously than the disenfranchising of literally thousands of voters. Why is the State Attorney General not pursuing this with as much, if not more vigor? Let’s hope the US Attorney General takes this voter disenfranchising seriously, and in time for the next election!