Board of Election Commissioners liveblog

Update, 9/11, 9:29am  – audio for the meeting here


(starting liveblog a bit late)

5:40 – right now have an overabundance of workers, says Rushford.  (From political parties?)

#OccupyBoylston sitting upstairs, as is Clive.  Downstairs…the Activate Worcester WCCA cameras, Steve Foskett, Kevin Ksen, Chris Robarge, and a lotta other people.

In 2012, received a list of workers from Republican City Committee, they displaced certain workers, some of whom were longstanding.  Took great pains to explain to those folks that they will find a slot for them.

(Sound in here is horrendous.)

City Councilors Economou, Rivera, Rushton, Palmieri, Eddy (and I think the mayor) in the house.

5:43 – everyone’s friend Keith Scott asks about whether so many poll workers should be non-partisan.

Rushford – to provide balance at polls, in effort to have transparency at polls.

“It isn’t a matter of partisanship, it’s a matter of balance.”

Paul Franco – asking about selection of poll workers.

(Follow Steve for livetweeting)

Konnie in the house as well, comes with Donna Colorio, though they sit in different spots.

Colorio sitting next to Rivera.

Rushford – 300 positions to fill, have to make certain that people who come forward as warden or clerk have received training.  Narrow window in August.

“At any point in process” they can submit more names.  Flexible arrangement after the deadline.

Franco – could he have master list of workers they have.  Would like inspectors to participate in training as well.

5:49 – Franco inserts football analogy, completely loses me.

I count two police officers; I welcome an updated count from those who are here.

Rushford says there is nothing that says inspectors need to attend, and there is no budget to pay them.  Satisfies the law and the work is not that involved.

Rushford: there were three separate online videos to watch last year.  Should introduce the viewing every other year.

5:54 – Mayor has asked to speak on numbers 7 and 8.

Petty — wants to make sure “everyone knows the rules, because I am not going to allow people to be intimidated when they walk into the polls.”

(much applause)

Wants poll observers to check their phones and cameras at the door and register.

Mentions that there are folks coming from other countries where they experienced oppression.

“There is no way under my watch we are going to allow this to happen.”

Even #OccupyBoylston clapped!

And the City Manager…

5:58: CM O’Brien: knows the board will do its due dilligence and follow up where needed.

His presence is a sign of support.  No election is more important than presidential election.  Secretary of State has offered to assist with any trainings/resources as necessary.  Will see if additional appropriations are required (!)

6:00 – Everyone’s favorite district 5 Councilor, Bill Eddy!

Echoes the mayor in thanking them for their service.

“I know the majority of you personally” and that the commissioners take elections seriously.

The role poll observers play is “not the role they played last Thursday.”

“Looking for you to send the firmest message possible to uphold the rights of all our citizens.”  says each party much respect the others’ rights.

6:03 – Sarai Rivera.  “I’m not telling you by hearsay…I’m telling you because it happened to me.  I was confronted” by hostile behavior.  “I will not allow the voters in my district to be bullied or intimidated.”  (much applause)

“I’m as American as apple pie…my husband is a war veteran.”

“I have the children, the house, even the dog and the fence.”

“People do not have the right to be intimidating or bullying.”

“I was being recorded, pictures were being taken.”

She was being challenged at every time when she tried to assist someone.  She did not endorse any specific candidate.

“Your vote is your voice.”

Notes the Y youth are getting out the vote in a nonpartisan way.

Wants to know we are getting ready — the Council will stand together to protect people’s rights to vote.

Commissioner Goggins has a question for the councilor, to describe what happened to her.

6:07: Rivera: when she first went in, was called because they were passing out flyers in Wellington/Murray area.

When I arrived, there was a gentleman who was frustrated and couldn’t vote.  Was asking the poll observer why the gentleman could not get a provisional ballot, was immediately challenged by a poll observer who refused to identify herself.

Rivera went to sit in a chair and the observer was negative, immediately challenging her.

[Q: how can somone challenge a vote without identifying themselves?]

observer then recorded a conversation.

Rivera then noted this to the poll workers, the observer then challenged it.

Rivera also notes that the poll workers were asking for ID, not proof of residence.

Poll observer stood in between poll workers, took phone out, and started taking pictures of the ID.

She was between the two poll workers, asking the spelling of names, etc.  “Very hostile; I was laughing at how ridiculous.  But poll workers and the warden should have been able to put a stop to this.”

[The manager offering more funding is like most men proposing marriage.]

6:13 – Councilor Rushton – “need to clamp this down now.”  “Only takes a few bad apples and a few bad actions…”

“This is not 1950 and this is not southern Alabama.”

“We are becoming more diverse, with more languages spoken, every single day, and that’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

Sees some people in the audience who are responsible and hope they own up to their behavior.

“We slip back when we get off the issues;” we regress when we don’t do the things to make our community better.

6:16 – Councilor Palmieri – was stunned by Councilor Rivera’s remarks, that this could happen in this day and age in the city of Worcester.

“Nip this in the bud immediately”

6:20 – Worcester celebrity Gordon Davis – further intimidation is illegal, and people who do the intimidating can be sued.

“People who have been brought up in countries with oppressive police forces can be intimidated.”  If those people come forward, Gordon will help them.

“If you intimidate us, we will get you somehow.”

“As soon as they pull [a recording device] out, arrest them.”

“We’re against fascism in all its forms.”

Asks everyone in the room and in the city to stand up to these fascists.

Francisco Ojeda (not sure of his name) – never missed an election in over 40 years.  When he went to vote at Murray, saw people being asked for ID.  Told the man we are not in Ohio.  He says he was inactive, and pulled out his checkbook and felt there was racism going on when ID was asked for.

6:24 – asked for clarification.  Says the poll worker at the check-in table asked for ID.  Does not know if the other individual was on the inactive list or not.

6:25 – Sharon Williamson, poll worker – would give anything to not be here tonight.  “Was it explained to people why sometimes we had to ask for ID because of voter certification problem?”  Says they had to ask for ID for voter certificate problem.

Rushford – has reviewed provisions of law with elected officials.

Rushford – Have to be careful when looking at specific problems without all the information.

Williamson says she was here about intimidation.  She says Rushford intimidated people at the polls.

Three times more people than they thought they would have.

Around 9 or 9:30, didn’t have many voters.  Bonnie Johnson came in and introduced herself to everyone, asked warden where to sit.  Gave her the place that would be best for everyone

Williamson said she thought Johnson was doing the job she thought she would.  “This is not a political statement at all.”  Wanted to get out of being a clerk.

Rushford came in, without asking clerks, in very loud voice said, “You.  You.  I don’t want you sitting there.”

[Williamson is not mentioning, of course, that she is married to Tea Party member Sandy Williamson.]

Doesn’t think there’s a problem with taking pictures of people in polls.

Two people said she was taking pictures, wants to know why those people didn’t come to the poll workers and went to Rushford.

“It was hearsay from two people.”

Rushford, quoted by Williamson: “I’m in charge of this today, you be quiet.”

Wanted to take Johnson’s phone.

She thinks he called two people over.  Colorio says five.

“Imagine being a female and you have an imposing gentleman who obviously doesn’t like you and two policemen.”

6:34 – she still is talking, and now does her own hearsay (because she didn’t see it) but that’s ok because…?

“If you’re going to do it to one, do it to all.”

6:35 – Rushford asks for chance to rebut the “ridiculously” false allegations.

Conversation with Ms. Johnson is not the first one, nor is it the last one.

When he got to the polls, spoke with ACLU, poll workers, and police separately before taking any action.

Miss Johnson had moved herself to the front of the table, so that was the first person voters saw.  He did instruct her to go behind the rail.  “If I said that forcefully, I don’t apologize.”

He asked Ms. Johnson if she used her BlackBerry if she photographed or taped individuals, two gentleman from ACLU said she did, she said she did not.  He said it’s “ridiculous” to say he asked to take her phone.  He asked her to take the device and put it in her car, which she did.

6:39 – Tina Hood, warden at 4-3 – thinks she asked Rushford about recording because there was someone making a documentary, Rushford said that the people could video but not record voters or ballots.

Issue as warden was with a lot of observers.  had obsevers from ACLU, Mary Keefe’s campaign, and from N2N.

[She also does not identify her Tea Party ties]

Instructed observers that the rules she was taught were that observers cannot speak to the inspectors, and reiterated that, but observers were talking to voters and inspectors.  Directing public to the bathrooms.  Was a bit much for her.

Observer from ACLU continued to get up and go over and look at voter’s IDs.  Discussed that observer could not look at voter list or IDs.

Says they were so loud she couldn’t hear the people in front of her.

They were talking on their phones, and had voters doing the same thing, told them they couldn’t use their phone there, but still they persisted.

She is very nice and polite to everyone, begins crying and says the observers were very intimidating and “stone-faced.”  And really mean.  “I didn’t do anything to you, don’t be mean to me.  I offered them cookies and muffins, I was being nice to them.”

Dinah Winant appreciates what Activate Worcester is trying to do.

If an illegal vote is cast, it could negate my vote.

[And this woman has been a poll worker for 14 years.]

Thinks it’s egregious for a city councilor to be assisting voters.

Winant being booed.

[Computer is running low; the liveblog may be abbreviated]

6:53 – Gines discussing challenged ballot rules.

Chris Robarge, ACLU – Number of observers from different organizations and campaigns.  Any observers from ACLU did not have voter list; nonpartisan organization.  Just there to observe overall integrity.  Robarge there to observe 10-5.  Believes that was when Johnson was asked to move her seat; saw clerk speaking with two police officers and Johnson filming from 10 feet.  Followed a bit behind her, still recording.  Was one of the people who reported this incident.  She was holding up her phone, taping voters and assistants at check-in table.  Walked outside with other observer, and told Rushford.

Rushford them told police officers, Robarge was there, and he backs Rushford’s statement.

Robarge says Johnson was constantly interacting with voters and the environment was hostile.

Voter intimidation by poll watchers, people speaking aggressively to voters, photographing voters voting or checking in.

Continued challenges when the issues had been resolved.

Poll inspectors asking for ID versus proof of residency.  Asked warden in 10-3 to clarify this with inspectors.

Lack of voter understanding about challenged or provisional ballots.

Saw voters being turned away and told to vote somewhere else rather than given a provisional ballot. (10-3)  In one case, warden; in one case, clerk.

General issue: surrounding redesignation of inactive voters.  Understands much of this is state policy.  Wants to minimize process.

Three requests as members of Voter Protection Network:
1) Election Commission continues greater training for poll workers and police.  Police officers are also election officials, and they should receive some training.

2) Election Commission posts large signs saying “All Eligible Voters have the right to vote today” and one that includes the flowchart that shows proof of residency.  In all languages ballot is in.

3) Names of everyone removed from polling places by police or clerk be submitted to attorney general for possible sanctions.

7:04 – Mary Francois – was told she had to vote somewhere else.  She didn’t know where to vote.  I think her voting place was 25 Meade.  A guy came to her house to find out why she didn’t vote, he drove her to 25 Meade.  Wants to know why she can’t vote where she has always voted.

Rushford responds discussing redistricting.  Neighborhood she lives at now votes elsewhere; change took place earlier this year.  He will give her his number and reiterates that no one wants to prevent her to vote.

She asks why she moved; Rushford says it’s a result of the 2010 census.

“something I like to do, to vote, and you’re taking it away from me.”  They will go talk in the hall.

7:09 – David LeBoeuf shows the flowchart that shows the inactive process.

He observed people on the inactive list being told to go get their ID — they should use “proof of residency”, not ID.

There was a lot of confusion about what the difference between a challenged and provisional ballot is.

Wants to see how many people on inactive list were given challenged versus provisional ballot.

7:11 – Gloria Zayas – she says she was intimidated by a poll worker.

7:13 – Kevin Ksen – was here last year after election, and spoke about similar things to what we’re hearing tonight.  Those of us who have been part of this for a while now – this year marks a clear escalation in what we were dealing with last year.  “An escalation, purposeful” – “active effort” by Activate Worcester to train and recruit poll workers.

“People shouldn’t leave today, or be watching today, and not end this without feeling that strong, swift actions” have been made against preventing people from voting.

7:15 – David Coyne – secretary of Worcester Democratic City Committee – in and out of poll half a dozen times.

There is no question that there were problems that existed because of poll watchers and misinterpretation by poll workers.

effort to block people from voting.

Said he discussed with the clerk that it had been reported to mark the streets in D15 with chalk and that the chalk said “show ID to vote.”  Something clearly intended to make people think if they don’t have ID they should be turned away.

There is video of at least one person slipping flyers telling people they need to show ID to vote at the Murray Apts.

“Effort to stop certain people from voting” – where black and Latino and Asian people, low income people vote.

“We must in Worcester put an end to this”; suggests criminal prosecution of those engaged in these activities.

7:20 – Jim Savage – one of inspectors at 10-5 and 10-3, his first time, convinced that city clerk and Josh did excellent job training.

Estimates 75% of the people voting were Spanish speakers.  Couldn’t understand what some of them were saying and found IDs helpful in that case.

Saw no discrimination.  Didn’t hear anyone hear that anything at 10-3 was done incorrectly.

Doesn’t blame anyone for getting upset that they were denied the right to vote.  Said he didn’t see anything like that.

Doesn’t deny what Sarai Rivera said.

(There is much rambling; I cannot keep track of this.)

He says observers are essential to our democracy.


OK, dude, you’ve been talking about nothing for 10 minutes, never mind filing a four-page affadavit.  The commission is cutting him off.

Commissioner says that the instructions the poll workers were given specifically say that the warden needs to follow the procedures, including no cell phones.  No more comments from the public.

7:32 – Scott Rickert (5-3) – voters should have full access to voting/polling location.  Why wasn’t full and safe access provided at 5-3?  Did an evaluation for the city, and when he went the ramp was at too steep a level.

Rushford talks about discussions and guidance he had with Mr. Rickert regarding temporary ramps.  “We need people in the accessible community to help us.”  He apologizes to Mr. Rickert for the non-compliance, and it will move forward in November with a good temporary ramp or good permanent one.

I need to go…I’m sure there will be a story in tomorrow’s paper.

6 thoughts on “Board of Election Commissioners liveblog

  1. Chris Robarge says:

    Thanks so much for this liveblog, Nicole!

    Just a couple of things I wanted to clarify from my testimony (Chris from ACLU), which you have marked at about 6:53, mostly just concerning things I’m sure I was saying too fast to type… 🙂

    -I was not stationed in 10-5, I was floating depending on where issues were reported. At various points in the day I visited all five precincts in Ward 10. I did spend the bulk of my time (a little over three straight hours) in 10-3/10-5, though, which were both located in the community room at 50 Murray Ave.

    -Regarding the Bonnie Johnson filming incident, I was outside when Rushford came out to talk with the police (also outside). Bonnie was filming them outside, and then turned around and headed back inside. I followed from a bit of a distance, and as I went back inside I observed her from about 10 feet away as she walked by the check-in table very slowly, camera phone up and recording the faces of the people who were waiting at the check in table. There were probably six people, three voters and a designated voting assistant for each of them. I turned around to go get either WPD or Rushford, and as I did, our poll observer who was actually stationed there came up to me independently right then to ask me if I had seen her filming. I told him I did and asked him to come out with me. We told Rushford, he made a phone call, he told the detail officers (in our presence) that there was a poll watcher who had been filming in the polls with a device that also captures audio and that it was a violation of the law, and that he was prepared to eject her and wanted their assistance in case she did not leave willingly. Rushford, myself, the other observer, and two officers then went in and Rushford approached Bonnie and asked her if she had been filming. She said she had not. He said he had two witnesses that had seen her doing so, and rather than throw her out (which he was fully in his rights to do) he demanded she check her phone with the officers or go lock it up in her car. He told the officers and the workers at check-in that if she returned with a phone, they were to contact him immediately. She never came back in, at least while I was in there, which was for almost three hours after this incident.

    Anyway, hope this is helpful information for folks, and I really appreciate that you liveblogged this!


    Chris Robarge
    Central MA Field Coordinator
    ACLU of Massachusetts
    Core Coalition Member
    Voter Protection Network

  2. Chris Robarge says:

    One more thing: The person who was making the constant challenges on the 10-3 side was not Bonnie Johnson, but another poll watcher from Activate Worcester. She asked me for my name and affiliation and I provided it, but when I asked her who she was, she refused to say. She apparently also refused to identify herself to the poll warden, police, or the City Clerk. It’s my understanding (based on a comparison of descriptions) that she was the person who was also eventually asked to leave due to the videotaping incident that Councilor Rivera described, and was escorted out by police. I honestly still have no idea who she is, I did not see her present tonight.

  3. […] Board of Election meeting this evening. Work ganged up on me so I was late getting there. Luckily, NicoleCommaWoo live-blogged the first part of the meeting. Her live blog leaves off (as her computer was dying) […]

  4. […] Nicole liveblogged most of it, with MainSouthMom picking up where Nicole’s power ran out. […]

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