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Worcester Clerk’s Mess Spurs Last-Minute Rule Changes

Saturday, November 03, 2012

 

In a hastily convened meeting, the Election Commission clarified the protocols concerning poll observers for next week's general election after it was revealed that City Clerk David Rushford distributed information contrary to the rules set by the state earlier this week.

Chairwoman Diane Mohieldin said the Commission had revised protocols for observers following the receipt of an October 30 memo from the Secretary of State's Office, which detailed a number of inaccuracies and inconsistencies between the rules put in place by the city and those maintained by the state.

Revised Protocols

The revised protocols were issued late in the day on Friday and have been reviewed and approved by the Secretary of State's Office as well as by the City Solicitor's office. Assistant City Solicitor Michael Traynor said that he spoke directly with Michelle Tassinari, director and legal counsel for the Secretary of State's Elections Division, to confirm that the new protocols were in compliance with all applicable state laws and guidelines.

Under the approved election observer protocols:

  • The individual is to make him or herself known to the warden that he or she is there to observe so the warden can direct the individual to the designated area for observers.
  • The warden may request that the observer present proof of identity, but it need not be a photo ID. If the observer declines to do so, he or she may remain in the polling location so long as he or she adheres to the rules for observers from the Secretary of State's Office.
  • The warden may prepare a name sticker with the word "Observer" on it and request that the observer wear it while in the polling location. If the observer declines to do so, he or she may remain in the polling location so long as he or she adheres to the rules for observers from the Secretary of State's Office.
  • Observers will also receive a copy of the Secretary's October 25 memo detailing the policies for poll observers.

 

Questions Remain for Clerk

Commissioner David Lapierre raised the question of how the City arrived at the point of having to issue revised protocols the Friday before Election Day. He said he had been in contact with the Secretary of State's Office, which said it had make several attempts to reach out to Rushford regarding the hosting of training sessions for poll workers and requested copies of the training materials the Clerk intended to use, all of which were declined or went unanswered.

Rushford said that his office waiting seven to eight weeks for a response from the Secretary of State's Office regarding the Election Commission's proposed protocols for poll observers, but no answer was forthcoming. He added that the Secretary of State's Office wanted to choose the dates for training sessions, but the City had already scheduled its training of poll workers and police officers, using materials sanction by the Commission.

"I think the actions taken were unacceptable," said Lapierre, who requested that the Commissioners review the matter at their next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, November 20, at 6:15p.m.

Mohieldin said the decision was made 15 minutes before the poll worker training sessions began to go forward with the protocols that had been unanimously approved by the Election Commission.

"We knew we had not heard affirmatively back from the Secretary of the Commonwealth," she said.

The revised protocols will be provided to poll workers and mailed out on Saturday to election wardens along with the Secretary of State's October 25 memo. In addition, the protocols will be posted to the City Clerk's website. 

 

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