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Worcester Staffs-Up For Clean Elections

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

 

The City Council gave preliminary approval for $65,500 to hire additional staff for the November 6 general election after concerns were voiced about issues of voter fraud and suppression during the September 6 primary.

Acting unanimously on the recommendation of City Manager Michael O'Brien last week, the Council would make the funds available for the hiring of 10 additional assistant commissioners and 10 additional wardens for high-volume polling locations as well as supplemental training for all wardens, clerks and election inspectors ahead of Election Day.

More Training Across the Board

The city's Board of Election Commissioners also requested that City Solicitor David Moore inquire with the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office as to whether Worcester could require that election observers provide their names and addresses to wardens in polling locations and provide some form of identification.

Moore said that while there is very little room for additional local regulation under the Commonwealth's specific legislation, he would present the suggestions to the Secretary of State's office and report back to the Election Commission.

In addition, the Commissioners inquired as to the feasibility of requiring poll observers to wear badges identifying themselves as such. City Clerk David Rushford said several organizations routinely provide lists of poll observers in advance, and badges including the observers names could be prepared in advance if the Secretary of State's office gives the city the go-ahead.

A two-hour paid refresher training session for poll workers will also be provided as part of the effort to improve the election process in Worcester.

District 4 City Councilor Sarai Rivera, who was vocal about issues observed at polling locations in her district during the September primary, said she was cautiously optimistic heading into next month's general election that the casting of ballots would go off without a hitch in light of the enhanced efforts.

"The reality is, in the city as a whole, there's a struggle with low voter turnout in general," she said.

"Regardless of what affiliation you're with or what party you're supporting, it's exciting to see people so committed. What isn't a good thing is when you're trying to superimpose your beliefs to the point where you're infringing on someone else's right."

Getting Voters Back on the Rolls

Meanwhile, Rushford said the City Clerk's office has sent out a third mailing to Worcester's inactive voters, which numbered nearly 40 percent of all registered voters according to September estimates.

While a large number of the mailings have been returned by the postal service because many of the inactives are no longer present at their listed addresses, Rushford said thousands of cards have already come back and staff is working four hours per night five nights per week and eight hours on Saturdays in order to get through all the responses.

"I think we've made a great deal of headway," said Rushford, adding that the city's goal is to work through all the voter cards by the time the data must be uploaded to the city's website and voter lists must be printed.

"I think we're in very good shape for this year."

The increased push to cut down on the number of inactive voters on the Worcester rolls has been successful so far, even though an accurate count of re-activated voters will not be available until closer to Election Day.

Rushford said the other benefit of the renewed effort has been education residents about the importance of returning the city census in the future. 

 

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