Thursday August 16, 2012

BOSTON (AP) -- Secretary of State William Galvin said Wednesday he has taken over the East Long meadow town clerk’s office after a preliminary investigation confirmed claims of potential voting fraud.

Galvin said the investigation found an influx of forged absentee ballot requests and hundreds of people whose voter affiliations were changed from Democrat to Republican in town voting rolls without their permission. He said his office will supervise the 2012 elections and voter registration practices in the town, a two-hour drive west of Boston and just outside Springfield.

Galvin said his office’s main goal is to ensure that the absentee ballot requests and registration changes are corrected by the Sept. 6 primary. He said his office has sent direct mail to affected voters and is working to separate genuine changes from forgeries.

The secretary said his office could oversee operations at the town clerk’s office over the next few years, as it did in Boston in 2006 after city officials failed to deliver ballots to voters properly. He said while issues like this happen periodically he has "seldom seen such a brazen effort" as that in East Longmeadow, which has about 16,000 residents.

Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni confirmed that his office has been working with Galvin in handling the case. He said his office has a few suspects in mind.

Mastroianni confirmed that the town clerk said this is the first case of voting fraud his office has worked on.

Messages were left for Town Clerk Thomas Florence, who has said his office discovered ballot "irregularities" and was working with state investigators.