Worldy Armand, 39, was arrested and charged with “willful and malicious burning” on Sunday evening after police connected him to the apparent arson attempt on the box outside the main branch of the Boston Public Library.
The blaze was discovered around 4am on Sunday morning when smoke was seen coming from the early voting ballot box. Firefighters filled the box with water to extinguish the fire.
Armand is believed to have used an “incendiary device” to start the fire, Massachusetts Secretary of Commonwealth William Galvin told local media on Sunday, pointing to severe damage to the plastic lining of the box.
Galvin has called for the FBI to investigate “what appears to be a deliberate attack” on the ballot box, urging local officials across the state to deploy security guards, video surveillance, and other measures – including frequent emptying of drop boxes – to prevent a repeat incident.
The Boston Police Department’s Drug Control Unit spotted Armand near Copley Square, where the attempted ballot-burning took place, on Sunday night and picked him up on an open warrant from the nearby town of Ipswich for receiving stolen property before deciding he was a match for the suspect seen in the surveillance footage of the arson.
Despite the dual-pronged assault of fire and water, 87 of the 122 ballots said to be inside the box were “legible and able to be processed,” Galvin revealed in a statement on Monday.
However, Massachusetts residents who used that dropbox in the 14 hours preceding the fire have been advised to check on their vote status and request a second ballot if it has not been confirmed received. If they do not request another, their original ballot will be “hand-counted to the extent possible,” officials said.
“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,” Galvin declared in a joint statement with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
The unfortunate Boston ballot box is actually the second to meet with a bad end in the space of a week. Last Sunday, an unknown individual set fire to a dropbox in the Los Angeles suburb of Baldwin Hills using a rolled-up newspaper as a torch.
That fire left 230 “pieces of material” for officials to attempt to piece together, and it was unclear how many of those could be read as ballots (or whether indeed they could be read at all). That arson remains under investigation.
Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.