FBI investigating fire set in Boston ballot dropbox; state leaders direct increased security


BOSTON (WPRI) — An arrest has been made in connection to a reported arson at a ballot dropbox in Boston early Sunday morning.

Boston police say around 4 a.m., a fire was set in the ballot drop box outside the Boston Public Library Main Branch in Copley Square.

The BPD is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the individual as part of an ongoing arson investigation.

The ballot box appeared to be on fire, but firefighters were unable to determine if the fire was burning inside of the box. Eventually, police say crews were able to extinguish the fire by filling the ballot box with water.

Around 10:50 p.m. Sunday, officers observed a man matching the description of the suspect.

Police later learned the man, identified as Wordly Armand, 39, of Boston, had an active straight warrant out of Ipswich District Court for Receiving Stolen Property. Armand was later taken into custody.

The BPD is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the individual as part of an ongoing arson investigation.

Armand is expected to be arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on the charge of Willful and Malicious Burning.   

The Boston Elections Department says the dropbox had last been emptied by the Boston Elections Department at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

According to an inventory by the department, 122 ballots were inside the dropbox when it was emptied Sunday morning, 87 of which were legible and able to be processed. Galvin says a handful of others may also be salvaged.

Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin released a statement Sunday saying he contacted U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office and asked the FBI to investigate “what appears to be a deliberate attack.”

In a joint statement issued Sunday, Galvin and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh urged voters not to be intimidated by attempts to interfere with the election.

“What happened in the early hours of this morning to the ballot drop box in Copley Square is a disgrace to democracy, a disrespect to the voters fulfilling their civic duty, and a crime. Our first and foremost priority is maintaining the integrity of our elections process and ensuring transparency and trust with our voters, and any effort to undermine or tamper with that process must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We ask voters not to be intimidated by this bad act, and remain committed to making their voices heard in this and every election.”

Joint statement issued by Sec. of the Commonwealth William Galvin and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

In light of the concern over malicious attacks on drop boxes, Galvin has also directed all local election officials around the commonwealth to increase the security of drop boxes. Galvin is urging officials to employ dropbox guards and video surveillance and to empty drop boxes frequently.

Voters may track their ballots online to confirm it was received.

Those who are not able to confirm their ballot status through the website, and who used the Copley Square dropbox between 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and 4 a.m. on Sunday are urged to contact the Boston Elections Department immediately.

Affected voters will be mailed a replacement ballot by the City of Boston and will have the option of casting that replacement ballot or voting in person until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

If any affected voter does not submit a new ballot, their original ballot will be hand-counted to the extent possible.

The Boston Police Department is asking anyone with information relative to this investigation to contact the Boston Fire Department Fire Investigation Unit at (617) 343-3324.

Community members can also anonymously call the CrimeStoppers Tip Line at 1 (800) 494-TIPS or by texting the word ‘TIP’ to CRIME (27463).

In Rhode Island, all 39 ballot drop boxes are under video surveillance.

Last week, state officials held an election security briefing, where state police explained how they will help deliver mail ballots and monitor drop boxes, among other things.

Rhode Island’s Emergency Operations Center will also be activated on Oct. 27 in preparation for the election.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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