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City Council Tackles Voter Intimidation

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Mayor Joseph Petty and Councilor William Eddy were the driving force behind a renewed effort to clarify the rules and regulations for voting in Worcester before November's general election.

Petty said he wanted to see City Manager Michael O'Brien work with the Board of Election Commissioners to come up with some additional rules regarding the use of cell phones for photography and audio and video recording after reports of inappropriate behavior in the city's polling places emerged during last week's primary election.

"I think everybody's on board," said Petty.

Courses of Action

On Monday, the Board of Election Commissioners voted to seek review of voting and polling place protocols, training for police and poll workers, and to institute rules and regulations for poll observers.

"I think for myself, I'm going to be requesting that we can a look at some level of consequence," said City Councilor Sarai Rivera, who spoke about her own experience at the polls during Monday's Board of Election Commissioners meeting.

"We have to see within the law what's feasible and what's doable, but there has to be a call to action."

"Clearly it's getting more adversarial out there in the public political arena," said former Mayor and current City Councilor Konnie Lukes.

Lukes said she was surprised that many of the councilors who attended Monday's Board of Election Commissioners meeting spoke first and then left before members of the public gave their testimony.

"I was sitting there to learn something," she said.

Education at the Root of Issues

What she learned, specifically from the recommendations offered by ACLU representative Chris Robarge, is that the city needs to improve the training and education of everyone involved in the election process before November rolls around.

"I wished that the councilors had stayed to hear it," Lukes said.

The Republican City Committee's Chris Pinto was happy with how the election commission meeting went, and he agreed with Lukes that the main takeaway from the hearing was that more training is needed across the board.

Pinto said that also applies to Worcester's already elected officials.

"At the beginning of a recent poll worker training the Clerk told the attendees, 'If anyone is here for political reasons they need to let me know right now, because in elections there is no room for politics,'" he said. "If only the same rules held for the Mayor and Councillors last night at the [election commissioners] meeting."


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