FBI to investigate 'deliberate attack' after ballot dropbox fire outside Boston Public Library

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The FBI plans to investigate what appears to be a “deliberate attack” after a ballot drop-off box outside the main branch of the Boston Public Library was set on fire early Sunday.

The fire was set at approximately 4 a.m. at the ballot drop box outside of the Boston Public Library Main Branch in Copley Square. The dropbox had last been emptied by the Boston Elections Department at 2:29 p.m. on Saturday.

An initial inventory conducted by the Boston Elections Department showed there were 122 ballots inside the charred dropbox when it was emptied this morning, 87 of which were legible and able to be processed.

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Authorities asked the public for help identifying the individual seen on surveillance video igniting a fire at approximately 4 a.m. in the ballot drop box outside of the Boston Public Library Main Branch in Copley Square. (Boston Police Department)

Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin said in a statement he has contacted U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office and asked that the FBI investigate what appears to be a “deliberate attack.”

Galvin said voters may track their ballots at www.TrackMyBallotMA.com to confirm receipt. The Boston Elections Department urged those who are not able to confirm their ballot status through the website, and who used the Copley Square dropbox between 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and 4 a.m. on Sunday to contact them immediately.

Affected voters will be mailed a replacement ballot by the City of Boston and will have the option of casting that replacement ballot or voting in person until 8 p.m. on Election Day. If any affected voter does not submit a new ballot, their original ballot will be hand-counted to the extent possible.

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“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 and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a joint statement.

“Our first and foremost priority is maintaining the integrity of our elections process and ensuring transparency and trust with our voters, and any effort to undermine or tamper with that process must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We ask voters not to be intimidated by this bad act, and remain committed to making their voices heard in this and every election.”

Amid concerns over malicious attacks on drop boxes, Galvin has also directed all local election officials to increase security around drop boxes, including employing dropbox guards and video surveillance and to empty drop boxes frequently.

The Boston Police Department is asking the public for help to identify the individual seen on surveillance footage appearing to start a fire at the ballot box.

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Officers arrived at the scene early Sunday to find smoke coming from the ballot box. Crews were able to extinguish the fire by filling the ballot box with water. 

Anyone with information is asked to call the Boston Fire Department Fire Investigation Unit at (617) 343-3324 or, to remain anonymous, use the CrimeStoppers Tip Line at 1 (800) 494-TIPS or text the word ‘TIP’ to CRIME (27463).

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