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Tables Turn in Worcester Voter Suppression Fight

Saturday, September 22, 2012

 

The City's Board of Election Commissioners declined to pursue an investigation into allegations of voter suppression during this month's state primary, and now some residents have come forward to criticize officials for their actions on that day.

"I think there's a lot of people saying things that I would never say if I didn't have proof," said Chris Pinto of the Republican City Committee.

"It's very irresponsible what these folks are doing."

Allegations Lacking

The claims in question include allegations of voter suppression and interference by poll observers stationed within polling locations, as well as reports of video and audio recording of voters.

However, the Election Commission chose not to pursue a criminal investigation into those claims at its meeting Thursday, citing a lack of specific evidence and opted to revisit the topic at its next meeting on October 11.

District 4 City Councilor Sarai Rivera, who could not attend the Election Commission's meeting due to a prior commitment, was one of the individuals that spoke before the Commission at its last meeting regarding voter suppression.

Firsthand Accounts

Rivera related how she was called to the polling location at 50 Murray Avenue after several voters said they were asked to present identification before voting.

When Rivera entered the polling place to assist a voter who had solicited her help, she said a poll observer attempted to record her the conversation she was having in Spanish with the voter.

"I'm still looking for a level of consequence and investigation," Rivera said on Friday.

"This isn't about hearsay but what many of us witnessed."

A memo prepared by City Solicitor David Moore later made clear that the Election Commission is the ultimate authority in nearly all election-related issues and that the polling place's warden retains the ability to request the assign police offer remove any non-compliant observers.

Jim Savage, who worked at the 50 Murray Avenue polling place that day, was the only individual to file an affidavit with the Election Commission.

In his account, Savage affirmed that no one was hassled or harassed during his time working there.

"It was pretty boring part of the day," he said.

Undue Influence

Ralph Perez, one of the five candidates in the contested Democratic primary for Worcester's 15th District State Representative seat, spoke out this week about Rivera's actions on election day, arguing that the Councilor abused her position by exercising undue influence at the polling place.

Rivera dismissed Perez's remarks, saying that the candidate was only trying to generate attention for his newly-announced write-in campaign in November.

"I went there because my constituents called me," Rivera said.

"That is my job. My job is to respond when people in my community are being affected. If I have to be there in November, I'm going to be there again."

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Bonnie Johnson was escorted by police from the 50 Murray Ave. polling place.  No observers or other individuals were ejected from the precinct.

 

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