Several city councillors and voting rights advocacy groups have called for drastic reforms to the city's election operation after department policy led to ballot shortages in as many as 30 city precincts across Boston last Tuesday.
Many of the delays and stoppages occurred at polling places in Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury with traditionally lower turnout rates. An elections department policy of providing precincts with enough ballots for 50 percent of registered voters proved woefully inadequate to deal with the crush of voters (turnout at some precincts was over 80 percent) who turned out to push Deval Patrick to a lopsided victory. Voters at affected precincts, including over 10 in Dorchester and Mattapan, waited in line for up to two hours as extra ballots were escorted from city hall by police cruiser.
Secretary of State William Galvin announced last Wednesday that his office would temporarily assume control of the city's elections in the wake of the miscue. Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Galvin, said this week that it was unclear exactly what that would mean for the structure or staff of the city's election department, or how long state oversight would last.
Mayor Thomas Menino plans to hire a consultant to examine the elections department and file reports with the Secretary of State's office, said Jennifer Mehigan, a spokeswoman for the mayor.
City Councillor Charles Yancey has co-sponsored an order with Councillors Felix Arroyo, Chuck Turner, and Sam Yoon to call for a public hearing to explore allegations of electoral mismanagement.
"I think it was simply inexcusable that the administration would take the tactic to hoard ballots and wait to be called instead of having the polling places stocked to begin with," said Yancey.
The order was to be introduced at the council's weekly meeting on Wednesday as the Reporter went to press. It was unclear which council committee would be asked to consider scheduling the meeting, and the decision might fall to Council President Michael Flaherty.
"The shortages put elections workers in a compromised situation," said Yancey. "I can't identify who personally dropped the ball, but the mayor has to accept responsibility - it's his shop and he has the responsibility of appointing department heads who create good policy."
State Rep. Martin Walsh told the Reporter last week that he was outside the Lucy Stone School as confused and frustrated voters waited for more ballots to arrive.
"It's a good thing that Deval Patrick won this election, because otherwise the fallout from this could have turned into a real nightmare," said Walsh.
According to accounts from elected officials, campaign volunteers, and election wardens, there were interruptions or ballot shortages in at least 12 precincts locally: precinct 13-10 at St. Williams School; 14-11 at the Morning Star Baptist Church; 14-8 at the Lee School; 14-9 at the Boys and Girls Club; 16-12 at Florian Hall; 17-3 at the Lucy Stone School; 17-6 and 17-8 at the Codman Square Library 17-7, 17-10 and 18-2 at the Mildred Ave. School; and 18-5 at the Hassan Apartments on River Street.