BOSTON — Boston and federal authorities are investigating after a fire was set in a ballot drop box in Copley Square early Sunday morning, and Secretary of State William Galvin has directed all local election officials to boost security around ballot boxes.
A Boston man was arrested late Sunday and is expected to be arraigned in municipal court on a charge of willful and malicious burning in connection with the fire, police said on Monday.
Worldy Armand, 39, was arrested when officers assigned to a drug control unit saw him in the Copley Square area and noticed he matched the fire suspect’s description, according to the Boston Police Department. Police said they determined he had an active warrant out of Ipswich District Court for receiving stolen property and took him into custody.
Officers were called to a scene outside the Boston Public Library on Boylston Street around 4 a.m. Sunday where firefighters were “tending to smoke coming from an early voting ballot box.” Crews extinguished the fire by filling the drop box with water.
City election officials will mail new ballots to the 35 affected voters, Galvin said, and original ballots “will be hand-counted to the extent possible” for affected voters who do not submit new ballots.
A directive Galvin issued to local election officials Sunday encourages them to monitor early-voting drop boxes with video surveillance, close or relocate the boxes in the late evening to prevent overnight tampering, relocate boxes to entryways or lobbies of city or town halls, and increase the frequency of ballot collections, with a “clear chain of custody” for ballots retrieved from the boxes.
For drop boxes located in areas not otherwise under surveillance, the directive “strongly encourages” that a security detail “guard the drop box when it cannot be monitored by election officials or other municipal officers.”
“What happened in the early hours of this morning to the ballot drop box in Copley Square is a disgrace to democracy, a disrespect to the voters fulfilling their civic duty, and a crime,” Galvin and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said in a joint statement, which also asked voters “not to be intimidated by this bad act, and remain committed to making their voices heard in this and every election.”
Lelling and FBI special agent in charge Joseph Bonavolonta said in a joint statement that federal officials are investigating “the attempted ballot box arson,” and that it would be a top priority of their offices over the next several weeks “to help maintain the integrity of the election process in Massachusetts by aggressively enforcing federal election laws.”
“Voters in Massachusetts can feel confident in the success of the information sharing protocols that we have established with our local, state and federal election security partners in advance of the 2020 election,” they said. “We remain fully committed to working with these partners to protect our communities as Americans exercise their right to vote. Help from the public is also vital to our effort. We encourage members of the public to remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious, election-related activity to us.”