The evidence presented so far paints a picture of organizations that, while on opposite sides of the political fence, share the goal of ensuring that everyone who is legally entitled to vote has the opportunity to do so.
One of the groups in question, Activate Worcester, seems to feel that welfare recipients and the “disenfranchised” need to be watched. They didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about 3,000 new voters or supportive of their opportunity to vote.
You can have all the “calls for a re-emphasis on mutual respect” you want, but when there was no emphasis on mutual respect on the part of Activate Worcester to begin with, it’s a bit hard to believe it will happen.
There are many questions still outstanding. It’s unclear whether the Election Commission will ever look into them, and I guarantee that things will get worse until the Election Commission stops worrying about how many verses there are in Kumbaya and starts worrying about the right of the citizenry to vote.
Here is what we need to know, in no particular order:
1) What constitutes a formal complaint and how to send it to the Election Commission. It should be absolutely offensive to those on any side that the Election Commissioners seemed to feel that 2.5 hours of testimony did not comprise at least one formal complaint. If you appear before a commission, state your name and address, and complain, then you should be told what you need to do to make that complaint formal.
2) How many votes were challenged? Progressive activists felt that there were votes that were challenged for insufficient reasons, but we do not know how many votes were challenged. Poll workers are required to note that information and write down the challenger’s name. It’s unclear whether that happened, it’s unclear how many it happened to, and it’s unclear whether the commission will make sure that poll workers are trained in proper procedure regarding challenges.
3) Where exactly can the election commission meet? I have attended at least one election commission meeting at the Worcester Public Library, so it’s unclear to me why the election commission dismissed Kevin Ksen’s request to have a meeting at 50 Murray Avenue because the meeting should be broadcast live. While it is important that the meetings be recorded and televised, it’s unclear why they need to be broadcast live, when they never have in the past.
4) How many people were redirected to a different polling place and/or given provisional ballots?
5) What is the investigation procedure regarding non-poll workers? The city solicitor said there need to be at least 6 voters in the ward to complain about a poll worker for a formal investigation. However, my understanding is that most of the complaints were not against “poll workers” but against “poll observers.” So — how would that sort of investigation work?
6) There were fliers indicating that people needed to show ID to vote. Has anyone reviewed the WHA video tapes from either election day or the night before?
7) What is the role of the city clerk? As explained in the city solicitor’s communication to the city council, the city clerk in Worcester has a different role in elections than in other municipalities due to home rule legislation from 2007. However, he also states that “the warden is responsible for maintaining order and handling violations of election laws by election officers or others. The warden may use police assistance when necessary.” This is something Bonnie Johnson alluded to on Thursday night — is the city clerk in charge of a polling place, or is it ultimately the warden? Imagine, if you will, a case in which an absolutely biased warden of the Activate Worcester variety decided to eject the city clerk from a polling place. I want to know what the powers of the warden are, and what the role of the city clerk is. More clarification is definitely needed.
8) Better methods for ensuring that people do not become inactive voters. We have too many voters labeled as inactive. We need to figure out ways to make the annual street listing process a success. If voters sign a candidate’s nomination papers, they need to be processed in a timely fashion so that they are not mislabeled inactive. This should be a priority of the commission.
(Have I missed anything? If I have, leave a comment.)
It’s challenging to conduct hearings where people are passionate and where testimony can quickly devolve into a tit-for-tat of accusations and name-calling. But the Election Commission needs to clarify how people can make complaints and in what manner their complaints will be heard and addressed. Voters also need to know that the Commission cares about truth and proper procedure.
We may never get at the truth of what happened on primary day. But saying that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated without understanding what happened, how it happened, and who did it will not prevent this sort of behavior from occurring in November.