State election officials investigating after local votes go missing

State election officials investigating after local votes go missing

PAWTUCKET – State election officials are investigating after a former candidate for House District 60 discovered that his own mail ballot and those of many of his supporters were not included in the final primary election tally last September.

David Norton, a progressive Democrat who lost to incumbent Democrat David Coughlin by just 47 votes in the primary, noticed that the votes were missing after checking the official voter file when it became available two weeks ago.

Norton told The Valley Breeze he isn’t disputing the final election results because he doesn’t believe the missing votes would have been enough to put him over the top in beating Coughlin, but he said he and other voters whose votes are missing deserve answers on why.

“There was either a huge blunder or there might be election fraud,” he said. “At this point I haven’t gotten a good answer from anybody.”

Norton emphasized that the election results should not be tossed. He said he believes someone affiliated with the election could have done something inappropriate with the mail ballots.

“How am I going to analyze what went on in my campaign if my own vote wasn’t counted?” he said. “I think we need to know what happened to the mail ballot votes.”

Norton said he filled out one of the “infamous” 155 mail ballots that were mistakenly sent out without City Council candidate Albert Vitali Jr. showing as the endorsed candidate in the at-large council race. Those 155 people all received new mail ballots.

According to Norton, he hand-delivered his ballot to the Pawtucket Board of Canvassers.

“There’s no question it was a legal ballot,” he said.

There appeared to be 85 requests for mail ballots in House District 60, said Norton. Of those, 43 of them were not received back at the Board of Elections. Even if all 43 of those votes were cast for him and went missing, he still would have come up four votes short, he said. The typical rate of non-return is between 5 and 10 percent, so to have more than 50 percent of mail ballots not returned is highly unusual, he noted.

Norton contacted Robert Rapoza at the state Board of Elections, and Rapoza told him he would look into it. Rapoza could not immediately be reached this week.

Other voters who don’t appear on the voter file include Kristen McGill, wife of Pawtucket Registrar Ken McGill, and Lynn Fernandes, who works for the Pawtucket Board of Canvassers, along with her entire family, said Norton. Mail ballots for many of his known supporters also weren’t found on the official election file, he said.

“This really raises suspicions with me,” he said.

Neither Kristen McGill nor Fernandes and her family live in District 60.

Ken McGill confirmed that Rapoza and election officials are investigating the situation. He said he sent copies of everything related to the votes in question and is waiting to hear back from the Board of Elections. He said local election officials did “our own little investigation” and confirmed that the names of Norton, Kristen McGill, Lynn Fernandes and others, all of whom said they returned their mail ballots, were missing.

This story was corrected to show that specific voters mentioned do not live in District 60.