Hope in New Bedford. City Settles With Disenfranchised Voters

(But Simple J. Malarkey said there was no there there.  The City has settled a civil rights lawsuit regarding voting irregularities in the 2010 GOP primary for Attorney General. – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)

Under the leadership of Mayor Jonathan F. Mitchell, the City of New Bedford has taken steps to correct profound difficulties that became evident at the time of the September, 2010, primary election.  In that election, 202 New Bedford voters cast write-in or sticker votes in the primary for the Republican Nomination for Attorney General – but none of those votes were counted for either of the candidates (Guy Carbone and myself).  Two disenfranchised New Bedford voters then brought a Federal civil-rights due-process lawsuit, the result of which was a settlement pursuant to which that city re-trained its elections officials and paid substantial compensation to those voters.

Most cities and towns did an outstanding job of counting the votes in that election.  In 62 municipalities, 100% of the write-in/sticker vote was counted for a candidate and, in the majority of cities and towns, more that 90% was counted.  For example, in Haverhill 306 votes were cast, with 306 being counted for a candidate; in Fitchburg, 177 of 183 votes (97%) were counted for a candidate; and in Brockton, 238 of 254 votes were counted (94%).

In contrast, most of our largest cities did an inexcusably bad job of counting the vote.  In Boston, there were 117 precincts in which votes were cast but none counted for a candidate, with, overall, 359 of 1535 (23%) of the votes cast being counted for a candidate.  In Worcester, less than half of the votes cast were counted for a candidate; in Lawrence, as in Boston, 23% of the votes cast were counted for a candidate; in Springfield, 14% of the votes cast were counted.  In addition, as was the case in New Bedford, more than a dozen smaller municipalities – ranging from Nantucket to Wilmington to Maynard to Nahant to Worthington – failed to count any of the votes cast for a candidate.  All-in-all, thousands of voters were disenfranchised.  

As a result of the settlement in the New Bedford case, and with Mayor Mitchell’s leadership, there is hope that voter disenfranchisement will be a thing of the past in that city.  However, given what happened in 2010, it seems that any voter who casts a write-in or sticker vote in most of our other largest cities still has less than a 50% chance of that vote being counted as cast.  Moreover, in light of how their municipalities did last time, no one in places like Maynard, Wilmington, Nantucket, and Nahant can have confidence that their write-in or sticker vote will be counted.  

That, of course, is inconsistent with the basic expectations in a democratic republic.  Moreover, that circumstance could prove critical should no Republican candidate for U.S. Senate emerge and a Lew Evangelidis or Mary Connaughton decide to launch a last-minute write-in campaign.  We can, however, expect improvement in New Bedford.

Very truly yours,

Jim McKenna

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