(only it is republicans who are fraudulent - alledgedly)
Secretary of State William F. Galvin announced Wednesday that he will directly supervise the upcoming primary election in the town of East Longmeadow, stripping oversight from the town clerk amid allegations that one of his employees may have participated in a scheme to carry out widespread voter fraud on behalf of a Republican legislative candidate.
The Hampden district attorney’s office is investigating allegations that Republican Enrico John Villamaino III attempted to carry out a scheme that involved changing the party affiliation of hundreds of residents and then illegally casting absentee ballots on their behalf in the Sept. 6 primary, according to a previous Globe report.
Town Clerk Thomas Florence has already placed one employee on administrative leave pending the investigation’s outcome, according to town officials.
“This was a rather brazen effort of a group to try to steal hundreds of votes,” said Galvin, who will have employees from his office overseeing all East Longmeadow voting in the primary.
“The objective here is to make sure the election goes forward, that voters have the ability to cast the ballot of their choice, and to ensure the integrity of the primary election,” he said.
‘It’s completely unheard of. Who could have possibly thought they could pull this off?’
State officials were tipped off to the potential voter fraud when hundreds of residents of the Springfield suburb suddenly changed party registration from Democrat to independent, allowing them to vote in the Republican primary.
A friend of Villamaino’s who works in the East Longmeadow town clerk’s office is suspected of having changed the registrations in the office computers after work hours, according to people familiar with the investigation.
Villamaino, an East Longmeadow selectman and an employee of the MBTA in Boston, could not be reached for comment.
“We are taking this investigation very seriously,” said District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni, who confirmed that his office is looking into the allegations, which could lead to jail time for anyone involved. Violations of state voting laws carry potential penalties of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
By seizing control of the town’s election process, a process similar to that which took place after the City of Boston ran out of ballots in 2006, Galvin’s office will directly supervise all voting.
As rumors of Villamaino’s involvement in alleged voter fraud swirl through the town, it remains to be seen what impact the allegations will have at the ballot box.
Villamaino, who goes by the nickname Jack, faces a GOP primary rematch with Marie Angelides, who narrowly beat him in 2010 before losing in the general election to Democrat Brian M. Ashe, now the incumbent.
A spokesman for Angelides campaign said they will be keeping a close eye on absentee ballots in the race and welcome Galvin’s involvement.
“We’re planning on challenging any ballot that comes in that was on this list,” said Bob Howarth, an Angelides campaign spokesman and a retired judge.
Angelides’s campaign detected the possible fraud after contacting registered Republicans who had requested absentee ballots. When many voters told campaign workers that they had not requested absentee ballots, the campaign contacted Galvin’s office, Howarth said.
“It’s completely unheard of,” Howarth said. “Who could have possibly thought they could pull this off?”
Howarth said the potential fraud had already been reported to Galvin by Florence. On Aug. 3, Galvin formally launched an investigation into the allegations.
Florence, who has been out of the office, did not return requests for comment.
Even as Galvin takes over, officials in the 15,000-resident town remain baffled by the voter fraud scandal.
“This is a cancer that we have to have removed,” said Jim Driscoll, 45, a lifelong resident and town selectman.
“This whole situation was a shock to me,” added Paul Federici, 56, who also serves as an East Longmeadow selectman.
“It’s a black eye for the whole town.”