Assistant City Solicitor David Rodrigues and City Clerk Michael Matarazzo outlined plans to guard against absentee voter fraud at last Tuesday night‘s Common Council meeting, in an attempt to ensure voter confidence in the outcome of upcoming elections.
Residents and elected officials alike have been calling for answers in the Stephen “Stat” Smith voter fraud scandal since the disgraced state representative’s guilty plea was announced late last month. However, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston has remained mum on the subject of possible accomplices in the Smith case and the city administration has turned its immediate attention to ensuring the integrity of elections in the city, as the primary election for Smith’s replacement nears.
Rodrigues, who was called to share his ideas with the council on Tuesday night, indicated that the city, in coordination with the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office, has decided to implement three new measures that are designed to help ferret out potential absentee ballot fraud and ensure that absentee ballots being counted in Everett’s upcoming elections are indeed legitimate absentee ballots of registered Everett voters.
According to Rodrigues, the three measures include:
1) Ensuring that voter rolls are up to date and accurate, in an effort to ensure that absentee ballot requests are legitimate;
2) Sending a confirmation letter to residents who request an absentee ballot, after their initial request for a ballot. The letter would indicate that the city has received a request for an absentee ballot for that resident, list the three reasons that absentee ballots can be used by law and ask the resident to confirm that they still require an absentee ballot;
3) Enter absentee ballots into the voting machines at a scheduled time, which would allow for a challenge to specific absentee ballots that are being submitted.
Rodrigues explained that the final measure would be helpful, because absentee ballots, like regular ballots, cannot be challenged once they are entered into the system. However, by having a prescribed time to enter all absentee ballots in each precinct, campaign officials would be able to challenge specific ballots, if they suspect fraud, just as they would be able to challenge a regular ballot.
City Clerk Michael Matarazzo said this week that he supports all three measures, as well as any future ideas for reducing voter fraud in local elections.
“I like the recommendations that have been made so far, just to help put people at ease,” said Matarazzo. “They are positive steps, above and beyond what the law allows but if they help (voters) feel more comfortable with the elections, that’s a positive thing.”