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Copley Square ballot drop box set ablaze

A Copley Square ballot drop box was set on fire Sunday morning, damaging dozens of ballots.

A ballot drop box in Allston. Dozens of ballots were damaged after a drop box in Copley Square was set on fire Sunday. LAURYN ALLEN/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Of the 122 ballots in the box, 87 were legible and able to be processed, according to a City press release. Voters who used the drop box between 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and 4 a.m. on Sunday should contact the Election Department to check the status of their ballot.

“What happened in the early hours of this morning to the ballot dropbox in Copley Square is a disgrace to democracy, a disrespect to the voters fulfilling their civic duty, and a crime,” Mayor Marty Walsh and Secretary of State William Galvin said in a statement.

“Our first and foremost priority is maintaining the integrity of our elections process and ensuring transparency and trust with our voters,” Walsh and Galvin wrote, “and any effort to undermine or tamper with that process must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The Boston Police Department arrested Boston resident Worldy Armand, 39, Sunday night. Armand was charged with willful and malicious burning in connection to the fire.

Alex Psilakis, policy and communications manager at voter participation advocacy group MassVOTE, said despite this incident, dramatic changes to the drop box system are unnecessary at this time.

“We don’t want folks to overreact,” Psilakis said. “We understand security is paramount, but this is one issue … so for that to overhaul how to do things is simply not appropriate.”

Galvin has recommended increased dropbox security, but Psilakis said increased police presence could disenfranchise voters. 

“There’s a lot of tension between communities and police right now,” Psilakis said. “The last thing we want is for a chilling effect to arise where voters are afraid to cast their ballots.”

Pilakis said the City of Salem uses ballot drop boxes with chemical suppressants, which he said should be adopted statewide to prevent fires.

Kristina Mensik, assistant director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said placing drop boxes near fire stations increases security without dissuading voters who may be uncomfortable with police.

Officials should continue to place dropboxes in accessible locations, such as libraries and city halls, she added.

Emptying ballot boxes more frequently, Mensik said, can also help protect ballots.

Mensik said drop boxes are still a secure option for voters in spite of this isolated incident.

“I hope that voters continue to make the best decision in terms of casting a safe and counted ballot,” Mensik said, “that they can make use of drop boxes, make use of the days that remain of early voting and participate in our democracy.”

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