The Boston Police Department is asking for the public's help in identifying a man in connection with a fire that was set inside a ballot drop box in the city.
Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin contacted U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling's office after he was notified of the incident Sunday morning. He is also calling on the FBI to investigate what appears to be a deliberate attack.
The Boston Elections Department notified Galvin's office that the fire was set at about 4 a.m. in the ballot drop box outside of the Boston Public Library's main branch in Copley Square.
Boston police said officers responded at 4:11 a.m. to the area of 700 Boylston St., which is the location of the library's main branch. When they arrived at the scene, the officers saw Boston firefighters tending to smoke coming from the ballot box.
The ballot box appeared to be on fire, but firefighters were unable to determine if the fire was burning on the inside, according to police. Crews were eventually able to extinguish the fire by filling the box with water.
When the drop box was emptied Sunday morning, 87 of the 122 ballots inside were legible and able to be processed. The last time the box had been emptied prior to the fire was just before 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Galvin told NewsCenter 5's Julie Loncich that it appears a sophisticated incendiary device was used to start the fire, as the damage to the interior plastic lining of the ballot drop box was severe.
In announcing their investigation, the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI issued a statement saying in part, "For the next several weeks, it is a top priority of our offices to help maintain the integrity of the election process in Massachusetts by aggressively enforcing federal election laws."
Police released photos of a man who they are looking to identify as part of their ongoing arson investigation.
Boston Police Dept.
Boston police released these photos of a man, whom they are looking to identify in their arson investigation.
“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,” reads a joint statement from Galvin and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “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.”
Boston voters who used the Copley Square drop box between 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 a.m. Sunday, and who haven't been able to confirm receipt of their ballot through the state's tracking website, are urged to immediately contact the Boston Elections Department.
Affected voters will be mailed a replacement ballot and can either cast it or vote in-person until 8 p.m. on Election Day, which is Nov. 3. Any affected voters who do not submit a new ballot will have their original ballot hand-counted to the best extent possible, according to Galvin's office.
"My immediate concern is to notify every city and town clerk in Massachusetts," Galvin said. "I sent out an urgent directive this afternoon to secure ballot drop boxes. If at all possible, have them inside of municipal facilities. If necessary, as we go down the stretch in this election and they need police officers there, that's what they need to do. We'll deal with the compensation issues later."
In light of the fire, Galvin has directed all local election officials across Massachusetts to increase drop box security. He is urging them to employ guards and video surveillance, while also requesting they empty drop boxes more frequently.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Boston Fire Department's Fire Investigation Unit at 617-343-3324.
Those who wish to provide an anonymous tip can call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-494-TIPS, or by texting the word "TIP" to CRIME — which is 27463.