Dozens of ballots were destroyed after a fire was ignited inside a ballot drop box in Boston.
The Washington Post reports the incident occurred around 4 a.m on Oct. 25 at Copley Square in Boston. After firefighters eventually extinguished the fire by filling the box with water, they found 35 of the 122 ballots in the box were too damaged to process. The Boston Election Department has requested that anyone who used the ballot box after 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 contact them for a new ballot.
“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,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) and Secretary of State William Galvin (D) said in a joint statement.
Surveillance footage of the ballot box shows a man approaching it with a flaming object in his hand. Both the Boston Police and the FBI are investigating the incident, with the FBI releasing a statement saying “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.”
Despite being set on fire, the ballot box is still intact and election officials don’t want the alleged arson to dissuade voters. The Boston Election Department noted that all ballot boxes are “under 24-hour surveillance and emptied on a daily basis.” Mayor Walsh and Secretary Galvin also encouraged voters to not let this incident prevent them from voting.
“We ask voters not to be intimidated by this bad act, and remain committed to making their voices heard in this and every election,” they said.
Sadly, because 2020 is 2020, this is not the only instance of a ballot box being set on fire.
According to KCAL-9, a ballot box was set on fire last week in Baldwin Park, Calif. Similarly to the Boston fire, this one was extinguished after firefighters hooked a hose up to the box and filled it with water. Baldwin Park Mayor Manuel Lozano told reporters that 200 ballots were involved in the incident.
L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn told reporters that all the ballots had been accounted for and new ballots had been sent out to those impacted by the fire.
“It’s unbelievable to me that during this very important election cycle that someone would stoop that low to target an official drop box where people have been placing their ballots and set it to fire,” Hahn told KCAL. “It’s my understanding that it was malicious, it wasn’t just a kid maybe throwing a match in a box. It was some serious vandalism cutting the box, they were determined to really destroy ballots.”
“(This) has all the signs of an attempt to disenfranchise voters and call into question the security of our elections,” L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis told KCAL-9.
According to ABC-7, firefighters believe the fire was started after someone lit some newspaper on fire and threw it inside the box. An investigation has been launched by both local law enforcement and federal officials over the suspected arson.
Drop boxes were already a source of controversy in California before anyone was setting them on fire. A legal battle is currently brewing between state election officials and the California GOP over unofficial ballot boxes that have been popping up at churches and gun stores across the state.