A man was charged with setting a Boston ballot drop box on fire and damaging dozens of ballots.
Worldy Armand, a 39-year-old Boston resident, was taken into custody late Sunday, hours after he started a fire inside a drop box outside the main branch of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, authorities said. The box contained more than 120 ballots. Armand was arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on Monday.
Armand was charged with willful and malicious burning of a ballot box. He was also arraigned on a charge of possession with intent to distribute a Class C illegal substance.
Prosecutors say Armand has a history of mental health issues and is undergoing an evaluation Monday afternoon.
He is being held without bail.
The FBI had said Sunday that it’s investigating. Federal authorities urged members of the public to “remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious, election-related activity.”
Massachusetts’ elections chief said he has directed local officials to boost security at drop boxes with guards and video surveillance, and to empty the boxes frequently.
Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin said in an interview Monday that he’s also advising communities to lock their ballot drop boxes on Saturday night, which is Halloween.
“We’re concerned that for that period of time, especially after dark, that they could be the object of pranksters or other individuals,” Galvin said.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says the city is working to ensure every vote is counted.
"From our election workers who are working hard to trace every legible ballot in that dropbox, 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," he said in a statement Monday. "We remain committed to making their voices heard in this and every election, and maintaining transparency and trust with voters."
Armand was arrested after drug control unit officers on patrol saw a man who matched the description of the suspect authorities were looking for in the ballot box fire, police said. Police said he also had an active warrant for receiving stolen property.
It’s the second fire reported at a ballot box in the U.S. this month. A fire inside an official Los Angeles County ballot drop box is also being investigated as arson, authorities said last week.
An FBI Boston spokesperson declined to comment on whether authorities believe the two fires are connected.
Officers called to the scene in Boston saw smoke coming out of the box before firefighters managed to extinguish the fire by filling the box with water, police said.
There were 122 ballots inside the box when it was emptied Sunday morning, and 87 of them were still legible and able to be processed, election officials said. Galvin said most of the 35 damaged ballots were largely intact and should be readable. Five to 10 of them are too damaged to be counted, he said.
The Boston Elections Department will mail a new ballot to the voters whose ballots were able to be identified as in the Copley Square drop box between 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24 and 4 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25. If those voters do not recast their ballots, the election department will hand count the ballots retrieved from the drop box, according to the mayor's office.
Voters can go online, or call 617-635-2211, to see whether their ballot was processed. Those who used that drop box during the stated time and can’t confirm the status of their ballot online should contact the Boston Elections Department immediately, officials said.
With reporting by The Associated Press and WBUR's Khari Thompson
This article was originally published on October 26, 2020.