Elections officials say early morning's state Senate ballot snafu addressed

By 
Colleen Quinn, State House News Service
Apr. 30, 2013

As voting got underway Tuesday, ballots that did not include the state Senate race for the First Suffolk District were discovered in two wards in South Boston, according to campaign staff and the Secretary of State's office.

Phones started ringing early Tuesday morning at state Rep. Nick Collins' campaign headquarters with supporters reporting the First Suffolk District race was missing from the ballot, said Kristen Franks, a spokeswoman for Collins, a South Boston Democrat running to succeed former Sen. Jack Hart.

Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, a Democrat from Dorchester and South Boston's Maureen Dahill are also running for the Democratic nomination.

Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, said "two packets" of ballots without the state Senate race were delivered to the polling place in South Boston, Wards 6 and 7. McNiff said "nobody was disenfranchised from the vote" because the correct ballots were also at the voting booth when the polls opened. Anyone who received the wrong ballot could have asked for a new one.

McNiff said he was unaware if any voters used the wrong ballots, which he said were quickly recovered.

Collins told the News Service some voters were told to come back later, while others voted only in the U.S. Senate race. He said he was concerned that during peak voting hours, in a district expected to have high turnout to support South Boston Congressman Stephen Lynch in his bid for U.S. Senate, some were denied the chance to vote in the state Senate race. Collins said he expected to benefit from Lynch's strong support in the district.

Turnout in the First Suffolk District was driving voter participation across the city. As of noon, 24,401 voters had cast ballots in Boston, 134 more votes than at the same point during the 2009 special U.S. Senate primary, according to the Secretary of State's office.

"I am concerned anytime voters for whatever reasons voters are disenfranchised from voting," Collins said.

Cayce McCabe, campaign manager for Dorcena Forry, said they were unaware there was a problem until they read a press release from Collins' campaign.

"None of our supporters called in," McCabe said. "Obviously, if it is confirmed, I think that is very unfortunate. Anyone who came out in those early hours came out to exercise their right to vote and for their voice to be heard."

Secretary of State William Galvin said on WBZ radio Tuesday afternoon that reports of voters being disenfranchised were "erroneous." While the Collins campaign reported being "flooded" with phone calls early Tuesday, Boston Elections officials estimated "less than six people" were affected.

Geraldine Cuddyer, chair of the Boston Board of Election Commissioners, said election officers immediately noticed the incorrect ballots and notified the Boston Elections Department.

"Election Officers are instructed to check their ballots against the posted specimen ballots to ensure the correct ballots are being given to voters, and ballot machines in the First Suffolk Senatorial District are programmed to deny any ballot that does not have the First Suffolk Senatorial District race on it," Cuddyer said in a statement.

The matter was resolved before 7:30 a.m., according to Cuddyer.

But Collins' campaign staff said some supporters said they cast ballots that did not include the Senate race, and were told they could not recast their ballots to correct the mistake.

Franks said Collins' campaign has told anyone affected to go back to their polling place to cast a provisional ballot for the First Suffolk race. Franks said Collins is optimistic the snafu will not affect the race's outcome.