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Delay in Releasing Lowell Vote Tallies is Unacceptable

September 13, 2018

Secretary of State William F. Galvin holds up a letter to election officials ordering a recount in the 3rd Congressional District during a news conference at the Statehouse on Monday. Herald Photo by Jim Michaud Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

More than one week after the Sept. 4 primary election, the Lowell Election Department has still not reconciled the blank votes tallied in the Democrat citywide races.

In Lowell alone, there were 1,256 blanks recorded out of 11,553 votes, which is 10.9 percent of votes cast in the city. Lowell’s blanks make up 38.9 percent of total blanks in the district. Experts say this is an anomaly.

Eda Matchak, the city’s director of elections, told The Sun on Wednesday evening that she was unable to pull the precinct-by-precinct results which would tell officials where exactly the blanks were cast.

A look at the blank totals is imperative. It could spot a voter trend, voter-machine problems, or something more ominous.

It might turn out that the majority of the blanks are localized to a few Lowell precincts.

We can only speculate that a majority of blanks did not come from voter-rich Belvidere. Why? A look at the citywide voter totals in the 3rd Congressional District race and the State Senate contest are nearly the same. There were 10,076 votes registered in the 10-candidate congressional race and 10,174 votes tallied in the five-candidate 1st Middlesex State Senate race. By that reckoning, it stands to reason that there were nearly the same number of blanks in both races -- not just the congressional race.

Don’t city election officials see the same obvious results that we can see?

Every day city election officials fail to tap into the precinct-by-precinct totals and release them to the public, it casts more aspersions on Lowell’s election process.

The lack of transparency is unacceptable. It raises concerns as to how many times this has happened in the past, but went unnoticed because an election result wasn’t considered close enough to warrant scrutiny. Well, now it’s happened.

The 3rd Congressional District race, won by Lori Trahan by 122 votes over runnerup Dan Koh, is going to a recount under the supervision of the Secretary of State’s Office. We’re sure state officials will find all the warts in Lowell’s election process if there are any. Already, it’s clear that a number of the city’s voting machines are old and prone to breaking down.

The City Council has ignored capital expenditure requests in the past to replace the machines, and now they have their answer to this kick-the-can-down the road approach that seems endemic with all publicly-owned buildings and equipment.

On Thursday, Koh’s attorney filed a letter with Secretary of State William Galvin saying he should complete his investigation into the Lowell Election Department’s practices and procedures prior to starting the district-wide recount. The attorney questioned the integrity of the Lowell vote.

Sadly, all eyes are now on Lowell for all the wrong reasons. The city needs to clear the air immediately.

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