Everett needs to monitor its absentee ballots

The ugly specter of voting irregularities has been raised again following the release of statistics which show that 744 people in Everett voted by absentee ballot in recent elections.

The Independent has written at least five articles during the past three years detailing the bloated number of absentee ballots and the protocol for filing them.

By every stretch of imagination, 744 absentee ballots here is a large enough number to get the interest of the district attorney, which the Boston Globe suggested in a column that appeared in Tuesday’s edition.

Attorney Tim Flaherty, who lost to Senator Sal DiDomenico in recent balloting by 178 votes, called for a recount and then declined.

Flaherty had had enough.

Twenty percent of the local vote did so with absentee ballots.

In neighboring Chelsea, that total was closer to 5%.

There is nothing illegal about candidates helping voters to obtain absentee ballots.

However, the collection of absentee ballots here has often raised eyebrows because of the excessive number and because of the lax identification and certification process that follows in the city clerk’s office.

According to state law, absentee ballots are issued to voters for three reasons: you’re going to be out of town; your are physically disabled and can’t get to the poll; or you have a religious reason impacting your ability to get out and to vote.

Bottom line, the city needs to look carefully into the absentee ballot stigma that is being created here.

The vote is supposed to be sacred.

The vote means nothing if an aspect of it has been toyed with or usurped.

Mayor DeMaria needs to take the lead in ordering Everett to police itself regarding absentee ballots.

In his first election run for mayor, the mayor himself complained vigorously that others against him were misusing or abusing absentee ballots.

He was upset that votes appeared to have been stolen and given to his opponent.

The mayor needs to order City Clerk Mike Matarazzo as well as the Everett Board of Registrar of voters to tighten up requirements and overview of the entire process.

Only then can the nagging questions swirling around Everett’s runaway absentee voter ballots be finally put to rest.

The integrity of the vote is what is at stake.

If the city doesn’t act, others may get involved.

As Globe columnist Kevin Cullen said in the last line of his tome about absentee voting in Everett – “Something smells funny in Everett. And it ain’t those LNG storage tanks.”

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