Authorities have charged a man for allegedly lighting a ballot box on fire and damaging dozens of ballots in Boston over the weekend, police said Monday. The Boston Election Department said 87 of the 122 ballots inside the dropbox were legible and able to be processed, but the rest were destroyed or unable to be counted.
Worldly Armand, 39, was taken into custody late Sunday after officers matched his appearance with the description of a person wanted for the alleged arson, police said. After a query by the officers, they found Armand was wanted on a warrant out of a local court for receiving stolen property. He will be arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on a charge of willful and malicious burning.
Police said smoke was coming out of a ballot box near Copley Square early Sunday morning and firefighters extinguished the fire by filling it with water. The Boston Police Department released photos to help find the culprit.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Secretary of State William Galvin released a joint statement on the incident and urged voters to not be "intimidated by this bad act."
"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," the officials said. "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."
City officials last collected ballots at the dropbox Saturday around 2:29 p.m., according to the Boston Election Department. The department said the city would mail a new ballot to all voters whose ballots were identified in the Copley Square dropbox at the time. If those voters don't recast the ballots, the city will hand count the ones recovered.
The ballot box did not sustain physical damage and will still be available for voters.
CBS Boston reported that Galvin directed election officials to increase security around ballot dropboxes.
"If it's necessary to have police officers there we need to deal with that," Galvin told the station. "The integrity of the electoral process we cannot possibly sacrifice."
FBI special agent in charge Joseph Bonavolonta and U.S. attorney Andrew Lelling asked the public in a statement to "remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious, election-related activity to us."
It's the second time in less than a week thatat a ballot box in the U.S. A fire erupted in an official ballot drop box in Baldwin Park, California, damaging several ballots.