Man charged in burning of ballot drop box in Boston

Alanna Durkin Richer
Associated Press

Boston – A man was charged with setting a Boston ballot drop box on fire and damaging dozens of ballots, police said Monday.

Worldy Armand, a 39-year-old Boston resident, was taken into custody late Sunday, hours after he started a fire inside a drop box outside the Boston Public Library in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood that contained more than 120 ballots, authorities said.

Armand faces a charge of willful and malicious burning, police said. It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney to speak for him.

This surveillance image provided by the Boston Police Department shows a man approaching a ballot drop box outside the Boston Public Library, early Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in downtown Boston. Massachusetts election officials say a fire was set at the ballot drop box holding more than 120 ballots in what appears to have been a "deliberate attack." Boston Police say that an arson investigation is underway and the person shown in this surveillance image is a person of interest.

The FBI had said Sunday that it’s investigating. Federal authorities urged members of the public to “remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious, election-related activity.”

Massachusetts’ elections chief said he has directed local officials to boost security at drop boxes. with guards and video surveillance, and to empty the boxes frequently.

Armand was arrested after drug control unit officers on patrol saw a man who matched the description of the suspect authorities were looking for in the ballot box fire, police said. Police said he also had an active warrant for receiving stolen property.

It’s the second fire reported at a ballot box in the U.S. this month. A fire inside an official Los Angeles County ballot drop box is also being investigated as arson, authorities said last week. Officials have not said whether they believe the two fires are connected.

Voter Linda Borman drops her ballot into the ballot box outside the Boston Public Library, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Boston.

Officers called to the scene in Boston saw smoke coming out of the box before firefighters managed to extinguish the fire by filling the box with water, police said.

There were 122 ballots inside the box when it was emptied Sunday morning, and 87 of them were still legible and able to be processed, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin’s office said.

Galvin told The Boston Globe that most of the 35 other ballots “probably could be read” and salvaged, but he said five to 10 ballots others were badly damaged.

Voters can go online to see whether their ballot was processed. Those who used that drop box between Saturday afternoon and 4 a.m. Sunday and can’t confirm the status of their ballot online should contact the Boston Elections Department immediately, officials said.

Voters whose ballots were affected can either vote in person or by a replacement ballot that will be mailed to them, officials said. If those voters don’t submit a new ballot, “their original ballot will be hand-counted to the extent possible,” election officials said.