Boston, MA – Boston police have arrested an alleged arsonist accused of using an incendiary device to set a ballot box on fire outside the Boston Public Library’s main branch early Sunday morning.
Boston police were dispatched to the Copley Square building at approximately 4 a.m. on Oct. 25, and arrived to find city firefighters tending to a blaze coming from inside the ballot box located outside the library, WCVB reported.
The crew ultimately filled the box with water in order to extinguish the flames.
A total of 122 ballots were recovered from inside the scorched, waterlogged box, WCVB reported.
Thirty-five of the ballots were damaged, including between five and 10 ballots that were destroyed and could not be counted at all.
The remaining 122 ballots were able to be processed.
Secretary of State William Galvin said he contacted U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office after he learned about the arson, WCVB reported.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also joined the investigation.
“For the next several weeks, 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,” the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a joint statement to WCVB.
According to Galvin, the suspect used a sophisticated incendiary device to start the blaze, which left the plastic lining inside the box severely damaged.
Boston police released photographs of the arsonist in the hope of generating leads.
Officers were out on patrol in the Copley Square area at approximately 10:50 p.m. on Sunday when they spotted a man who matched the suspect’s description, WCVB reported.
They made contact with the man and identified him as 39-year-old Worldy Armand.
Armand had a valid warrant out of Ipwich District Court for receiving stolen property, so he was taken into custody.
Boston Fire Investigation Unit officers were subsequently able to link Armand to the arson, and charged him with willful and malicious burning, WCVB reported.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Galvin released a joint statement in the wake of the incident, WCVB reported.
“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,” the statement read.
“Our first and foremost priority is maintaining the integrity of our elections process and ensuring transparency and trust with our voters, and any effort to undermine or tamper with that process must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Galvin and Walsh said. “We ask voters not to be intimidated by this bad act, and remain committed to making their voices heard in this and every election.”
Galvin said he immediately notified every city and town clerk in the state “to secure ballot drop boxes,” and to check them hourly if possible, WCVB reported.
“If at all possible, have them inside of municipal facilities,” he said. “If necessary, as we go down the stretch in this election and they need police officers there, that’s what they need to do. We’ll deal with the compensation issues later.”
Voters who dropped their ballots into the box outside the library after the last pickup at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday were asked to check the state’s ballot tracking website to verify their votes had been received, WCVB reported.
Those who don’t receive confirmation of receipt have been asked to contact the Boston Elections Department in order for a replacement ballot to be sent to them.
“We’re going to insist on prosecuting whoever did this and want them to know they’re going to be apprehended and go to jail,” Galvin told WBTS.
Walsh released a statement thanking local and federal investigators and community members for working together to apprehend the suspect, WCVB reported.
“From our election workers who are working hard to trace every legible ballot in that drop box, 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,” Walsh said.
“We remain committed to making their voices heard in this and every election, and maintaining transparency and trust with voters,” the mayor added.
Armand underwent a mental health evaluation and was arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on Monday, WCVB reported.
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said she believes he is “emotionally disturbed,” but that she does “not believe that this individual is plotting against our democracy,” according to WCVB.
“You will be held accountable if you do this,” Rollins said. “Certainly, if you have cognitive impartments, we will get you the help that you need. But you will not be out here engaging in this behavior. Whether it is intentional or not, we are going to make sure we remove individuals that are doing that.”
The Boston arson occurred just one week after someone set fire to another ballot box in Baldwin Park, California.
The box went up in flames outside the Baldwin Park Library at approximately 8 p.m. on Oct. 18, KCBS reported.
Firefighters ended up having to put a hose through the drop slot on the box to douse the flames, then cut the container open with a chainsaw.
They recovered over 200 ballots from inside.
“[This] has all the signs of an attempt to disenfranchise voters and call into question the security of our elections,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis told KCBS.
According to Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, all of the voters whose ballots were inside the box have been sent new ballots, KCBS reported.
“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 said.