Our Opinion: Details needed on city election challenge

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Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer triumphed again in Monday's recount of the Nov. 5 Pittsfield election results, gaining two votes to increase her margin of victory over City Councilor Melissa Mazzeo to 528. It is apparent, however, that Councilor Mazzeo's challenge will not end there. Voters should demand more specifics as to why that is the case.

The words and phrases used by Ms. Mazzeo and Andrew Hochberg, the attorney representing her in her challenge, have been cautious and purposefully vague. "Significant concerns," "integrity" of the election process and "irregularities" have been used in recent days. The blunt truth, however, is that Ms. Mazzeo believes, or at least suspects, that the Tyer campaign stole the election. That is a serious allegation, one that could involve criminal conduct.

The Mazzeo camp's concerns center around alleged unauthorized access to absentee ballots. In Monday's recount, observers for Ms. Mazzeo challenged 386 ballots, the majority of which were cast for Mayor Tyer. They have been set aside for future review. Mayor Tyer described the challenges as "an attempt to disenfranchise my voters."

City Clerk Michele Benjamin told The Eagle that no one had any access to any of the ballots, except for staff. Does Ms. Mazzeo suspect that the office of the city clerk was complicit in election rigging?

We now know that Mazzeo suspects Mayor Tyer’s husband and campaign treasurer, Barry Clairmont, had unauthorized access to ballots at the Registrar of Voters Office in City Hall. Does she believe that Mazzeo votes were discarded and/or blank ballots filled in for Tyer? How does she believe ballots were accessed to perform this election fixing?

Our democracy can't work if there are questions about the reliability of our election process. Concerns and fears about that process at the federal level is at the core of the impeachment process being played out in Washington, D.C. The reliability of the election process is just as serious at the local level. If a candidate has legitimate concerns about that reliability he or she should pursue them.

However, in reference to the Mazzeo challenge, Debra O'Malley, a spokeswoman for the office of Secretary of State William Galvin, said "I don't know what the campaign is seeking here." Pittsfield voters don't either, which is why Councilor Mazzeo should provide more specifics about her challenge to the election and what her intended end game is. This process must unfold quickly, as it will be a disservice to Pittsfield if it is not resolved well before January, where the mayor's second term is scheduled to begin.

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