Mayor Joseph Petty was the first to speak before the board, stating that with a highly-contested election anticipated in November, it is increasingly important to make sure everyone knows the rules and abides by them.
“I’m not going to allow, as Mayor of the City of Worcester, people to be intimidated to walk into the polling booth,” he said.
“There is no way on my watch that we’re going to allow this to happen.”
The mayor went on to implore the Board of Commissioners to work together with City Manager Michael O’Brien to develop a further set of rules for poll observers, workers and police.
“We need to make this process easy in November and not hard.”
O’Brien, Councilor William Eddy, Councilor Frederick Rushton and Councilor Sarai Rivera, who experienced the alleged intimidation firsthand, all came before the board as well.
“We don’t get better when we try to reduce the voice,” said Rushton. “We get better when we empower the voice.”
Much of the discussion centered around events that took place at the 50 Murray Avenue polling station, where Rivera’s run-in with observer Bonnie Johnson occurred.
Rushford told the board and audience that he made three separate trips to the location in response to agitating activity at the polls.
According to Rushford, Johnson had moved to the front of the table in the polling station and was the first person greeting voters as they entered.
Chris Robarge, an observer for the ACLU, said he observed Johnson filming a conversation between Rushford and police outside the polling place as well as people at the check-in table prior to casting their votes.
Robarge reported what he saw to Rushford, and the two then entered the polling place with two police officers to talk to Johnson. When asked, Johnson denied recording or photographing anyone, and after she refused to place her phone in her vehicle, she was escorted out by police.
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