BOSTON (CBS) – Boston Police say they’ve arrested the man who set a ballot box on fire over the weekend. Worldy Armand, 39, of Boston, was arraigned in municipal court Monday afternoon.
Police said he lit a fire inside the drop box outside of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square around 4 a.m. Sunday. Some of the ballots in the drop box were destroyed and others were damaged in the fire.READ MORE: Massachusetts Is Among Least Kind States In America, Study Finds
A few hours later, investigators released two photos of the man they were looking for. Officers on patrol in Copley spotted him and took him into custody just before 11 p.m. Prosecutors said he was carrying a cigarette lighter and appeared to have burn injuries on his fingers.
Armand is now charged with willful and malicious burning.
“I do not believe that this individual is plotting against our democracy. I believe he is emotionally disturbed,” said Suffolk District Attorney Rachel Rollins. Prosecutors say he had a record of charges from New Hampshire, to Ipswich, to Malden, where he’s accused in a similar case, of setting something on fire there.”
Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin said most of the 122 ballots in the box at the time of the fire were not badly damaged, but 5 to 10 were destroyed.
Now they’re asking anyone who used the ballot drop box between 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 a.m. on Sunday to check their ballot status online or by calling 617-635-2211.
The city will mail a new ballot to all those voters whose ballots were put in the box during that time period. If those voters don’t recast their ballots, the city will count the ballots recovered from the box.
The drop box itself was not damaged and is still outside the library available for voters. The city said all drop boxes are under 24 hour surveillance and each is emptied daily. Police have also increased patrols in the drop box neighborhoods.
“I’m very angry,” Galvin said. “It is our intention to make sure that the individuals who did this are apprehended and prosecuted. We want to make sure of the integrity of the electoral process.”
Boston voter Sarah Carlson posted a photo of herself and her ballot envelope on social media, describing it as “easy and secure early voting.” Then she found out the box where she dropped it off, was the one that had been set on fire.READ MORE: State Police Seek Men Who Broke Into Boston High Rise
“I’ll be honest. My reaction was kind of, what’s next 2020. This year has been so tumultuous and so full of surprises,” said Carlson.
Diane Smith had been planning to drop her ballot in the box as a way to avoid lines at the polls during the pandemic. Now she has second thoughts after learning it was torched.
“I thought it was really terrible and what more do we have to contend with to vote safely this year?” she asked.
The incident set off concerns across the state. In Framingham, police are guarding the city’s two ballot boxes 24-hours a day. Galvin has directed election officials across the state to pick up the pace and empty ballot boxes more often and consider bringing them indoors on Halloween, in case of pranks.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh praised police Monday for the quick arrest.
“From our election workers who are working hard to trace every legible ballot in that dropbox, to our firefighters who quickly responded to the fire, and our police officers who launched an immediate investigation, voters can be assured that our first and foremost priority is maintaining the integrity of our elections process,” the mayor said in a statement.
“We remain committed to making their voices heard in this and every election, and maintaining transparency and trust with voters.”
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