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Voter fraud investigated

Date: 8/13/2012

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW — Registered Democrat Dorothy Lofgren of East Longmeadow wonders why her name is on a list of people who requested an absentee ballot for the Republican primary election on Sept. 6.

She is not alone.

Lofgren was one of almost 450 people listed as having asked for an absentee ballot, which is now being investigated by the office of Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin for potential voter fraud.

A letter sent to the town dated Aug. 3 from Michelle Tassinari, director of legal counsel in the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Elections Division, stated that she would be investigating "the party registration changes of a large number of registered voters that were allegedly made without the voter's request, authorization or approval."

Tassinari said in the letter, "It has been alleged that official election records of registered voters were improperly altered and changed without authority and in violation of law,"

Specifically, Reminder Publications has learned, absentee ballot requests were allegedly made for registered Democrats for the upcoming Republican primary election for the Second Hampden District's seat on the state House of Representatives between East Longmeadow Selectman Jack Villamaino and Longmeadow Selectman Marie Angelides, who are facing off for the second time. Angelides defeated Villamaino in the 2010 primary before losing to incumbent Democrat Brian Ashe in the general election.

Tassinari advised Town Clerk Thomas Florence to secure any records or computers that are used in voter registration activities and not to destroy or delete any information.

Brian McNiff, spokesperson for Gavin's office, said he could not comment on any details not comprised in the letter, including the number of allegedly fraudulent voter registrations or who initiated the complaint with the state.

"The letter pretty much speaks for itself," McNiff said.

With the recent restructuring of the Second Hampden District, the district now consists of precincts 2 through 4 in East Longmeadow and all of the towns of Longmeadow, Hampden and Monson.

A list obtained by this newspaper dated July 31 lists nearly 450 residents throughout all three East Longmeadow precincts in Second Hampden District for whom absentee ballots were requested in East Longmeadow, the vast majority of whom were registered Democrats. In contrast, as of Aug. 7, approximately 150 absentee ballots were sought in Longmeadow for the primary, while 24 and 27 were requested in Hampden and Monson, respectively.

"We will probably get some more rolling in closer to the deadline, but we don't usually get a lot for primary elections," Monson Town Clerk Nancy Morrell said. "We even had an override recently and didn't get a lot of absentee ballots."

An updated number of absentee ballot requests was not made available to Reminder Publications as representatives from Florence's office said he was out of the office from Aug. 7 through Aug. 10. Messages left for Florence requesting comment on Aug. 1 and 2 regarding this issue, in advance of the letter from the Galvin's office, were not returned.

Lofgren, an enrolled Democrat residing in precinct 2, said that she had no knowledge of the fact that an absentee ballot had been taken out in her name until she received a letter from the state regarding the matter.

"I did not request an absentee ballot and I never received a ballot. I never received a letter from the town. The only correspondence I received was a letter from the state office," she said. "I'm puzzled about it. I know someone who did apply for one and I asked her if she put my name down for one and she told me she didn't, so I have no idea how I ended up on this list. It's a mystery."

Douglas Howie, who lives in precinct 3, said that he and his wife, Sandra, had absentee ballots requested for them without their authorization.

"We never did that. We never applied for anything," Howie said, explaining that once he was notified of the issue, he contacted the state, but "nobody had any answers."

Like Lofgren, both Douglas and Sandra Howie are registered Democrats.

"We're both Democrats and have always voted Democrat. That's why I thought it was so strange," he said. "All I can think of is that someone took out a ballot with the intention of voting for me. This can't be a mistake. Someone did this intentionally."

Howie added that the situation, if not spotted, could have put his ability to vote in future elections in jeopardy.

"What if I went to vote in November and found out that I can't vote? Then what could I do then?" he said.

Angelides declined to comment on the investigation. Villamaino could not be reached as of press time.