What are the implications for democracy?
On Sunday at 4:00 in the morning, October 25, a ballot box outside the Boston Public Library in Copley Square was found in flames. The fire department discovered the burning collection box, which was proclaimed a deliberate criminal act by the Secretary of State William F. Galvin. The culprit, the 39-year-old man Worldly Armand, was taken into custody on Sunday, for the act of arson. Members of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office have said that they see the crime as an isolated incident, rather than an organized attempt to undermine the upcoming presidential election.
“Although this individual appears to be emotionally disturbed without a deliberate and specific intent to intimidate or interfere with the voting process, the ability to vote without interference is central to our democracy,” wrote district attorney Rachael Rollins in a statement from the DA’s office. “No matter the intent of Armand when he set fire to these ballots, his actions strike a nerve in our society at a time of nearly unprecedented political divisiveness.”
Debra O’Malley, a spokesperson for Secretary Galvin, said that there had been 122 ballots within the collection box. Of these, about 35 are somewhat damaged, with five to 10 of them having voter names that cannot be identified. Much of the damage came from the water that the fire department poured over the box to quell the flames. The Boston Elections department sent expedited, overnight ballots to voters whose ballots were identified, according to O’Malley. Voters may also have the option of depositing their ballots in person, if they do not wish to vote by mail or drop box.
“Every voter whose ballot was in that box will have an opportunity to cast a new ballot, if they choose to do so,” said O’Malley. “But most of them can be counted without a new ballot being cast. …We asked everyone to track their ballots and contact the Boston Elections Department, if they did drop their ballot in that ballot box, between the last pick up, which was at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, and when the fire was set at 4:00 in the morning on Sunday. That way, if we can’t figure out whose ballot it was, they can contact the office, to get their new ballot.”
For voters who do not recast their ballots, “the original ballot will be counted, to the extent possible,” said O’Malley.
Shira Laucharoen is a reporter based in Boston. She currently serves as the assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. In the past she has written for Sampan newspaper, The Somerville Times, Scout Magazine, Boston Magazine, and WBUR.