Arlington Fights Racism cites close vote, malfunctions

Michaiah Healy, Select Board candidate, 2020 photoHealy: 6,120

Lenard Diggins, Select Board candidate, 2020Diggins: 6,208

UPDATED, June 16: Citing an "extremely tight margin coupled with reports of significant voting irregularities in the June 6 local elections," citizen group Arlington Fights Racism says it is assisting in seeking a  recount on behalf of Select Board candidate Michaiah Healy as well as for Town Meeting candidates in Precincts 6 and 17.

In a June 13 news release, the petitioners say they are asking election officials to postpone certifying the results of the races until the recount is completed. A representative of the group said June 15 that the petitions are complete and signed by the candidates.

Town Clerk Juli Brazile reported June 16 that the recount petition has been filed. The signatures must be certified, and then  the registrars must schedule the recount, she said.

"Petitioners understand the stressful conditions town election staff and volunteers experienced during the lead-up to the election," the release says. "They note the extreme care required to accommodate voting under Covid-19 protocols, the nature of voting with mail-in ballots and the big spike in turnout were all contributing factors in an already complicated election. Everyone associated with conducting the election during this pandemic deserves appreciation for their sincerity and commitment to the electoral process."

88-vote difference

Unofficial results show the Select Board race was decided by a margin of less than 0.5 percent, or 88 votes, of nearly 18,890 votes cast in over 11,100 ballots.

The statement continues: "The combination of the closeness of the tally, voting machine malfunctions and problems with ballot delivery, raises serious questions about the accuracy of the reported results.

"The state recommends that candidates only request a recount when the margin is less than 1 percent, anything less than 1 perecnt is considered statistically relevant. The margin here of less than 0.5 percent means that the value of this recount rises to the statewide standard of significance, on its own merit, regardless of other conditions."

The statement says election poll observers reported numerous problems with tabulating machines including paper jams, counting errors and rejected ballots."

Five days after the unofficial count was reported, YourArlington heard about a number of issues from sources. Follow-up inquiries could not yet pin down the extent of the issues.

Arlington Fights Racism logo

'Problems across trown'

The group's statement says: "Such problems were observed across the town. Additionally, there were reports of residents who received ballots for the wrong precinct, which causes the machines to reject them. Poll monitors also reported numerous ballots deposited by voters in town drop-boxes were delivered to the wrong precincts; misdirected ballots were redistributed after many of the precincts to which they should originally have been delivered had reported their tallied results."

The statement says the petitioner for a recount must obtain the signatures of 10 registered voters in each precinct where a recount is requested. The group says the town will receive recount petitions for all 21 of Arlington’s precincts.

Healy statement

“At the heart of this request for a recount is election integrity,” Select Board candidate Michaiah Healy said in the group's statement.

“It is possible that the outcome of the recount will be the same. This recount petition is about professionalism and excellence in all that happens in town. There is evidence that there were errors and the margin between the second and third place candidates was small enough, that it's reasonable to ask for this recount. Not to mention, that this local election is a dress rehearsal for November.”

Arlington Fights Racism is a group of concerned town citizens who came together in response to the racist writings of a town police officer published in 2018. The group says its work involves an examining the role that institutional racism and a lack of representation and transparency have played in town.

"We work to increase the diversity of representation at all levels of town government, to challenge institutional racism, to reverse the harmful precedent set by the town’s inappropriate use of restorative justice to right a wrong affecting the entire community; and to make Arlington a place that is truly welcoming and inclusive for all our residents," the group says.

In the 2020 town election, the group supported Healy and not Diggins as well as a slate of Town Meeting candidates.

A representative of Arlington Fights Racism responded to initial questions June 15. 

Elizabeth Dray, one of the co-chairs of Arlington Fights Racism, pointed June 8 to the group's lengthy statement on Facebook.

In summary, it says: "This election season has been like nothing seen before in Arlington. For the first time, a group of people came together to make change in a unique way, to challenge the election landscape to build a more welcoming and inclusive environment, one that embraces it’s changing demographic, rather than simply tolerating it.

"We invited and supported the first ever campaign of a large group of candidates, united against racism, who share the goal of increasing the representation of people of color and other marginalized groups in positions of leadership in Arlington. Some complained that what we were asking for was too much. Some complained that what we were doing was not the right way to do it. Some did not take us seriously. Some fought us, some derided or slandered us. Through it all, we stuck by our belief that Arlington could be a town where all voices and perspectives are identified, invited and included in town government.

"While we are disappointed with some of the results, we are proud to have played a significant role in increasing voter participation, bringing new voices and perspectives into our town government and centering the campaign conversation on inclusion, representation and equity.

"We are proud of the thoughtful race that Michaiah Healy ran for Select Board. Her message calling for transparency, civic participation, mutual respect, collaboration and accessibility is one much needed in Arlington.

"We are grateful to School Committee candidate Lynette Martyn for her courage to talk about difficult topics for APS, including disparity gaps in discipline, MCAS scores and graduation rates for students of color, English language learners, special education and economically disadvantaged students. AFR believes that Lynette’s commitment to listening to families and improving the district’s communication and transparency would have benefited all APS students and families.

"Both the Select Board and the School Committee would have been stronger with the voices of Michaiah and Lynette. Despite running as outsiders without establishment endorsements, they lost by narrow margins, 0.463 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively. AFR thanks them for their courage.

"During our journey, we grew from a group of people who barely knew of each other, to a family of activists committed to a movement that is helping shape the future of our town. We faced attacks on many fronts, some from corners expected, and some from those we had counted on as allies. But we pressed on, we persevered, and we rose above.

"AFR would like to share some impressive statistics for a first time, grassroots campaign. 44 Town Meeting candidates committed to support the ideals and values expressed in AFR’s Inclusion Platform and two-thirds of them won, half of them first time candidates and half of them incumbents, 25 percent of them identify as people of color.

"This more closely aligns with the representation of our community demographics and we hope will set a new standard for future elections. AFR supported 10 candidates of color, nine of them first-time candidates, and eight won. AFR endorsed 64 percent of all first-time candidates and just under half of them won their seats, many in highly contested races. AFR candidates ran in 90 percent, or 19/21, of Arlington precincts and won seats in 79 percent (15/19) of them. Of the 88 seats up for election, AFR candidates won 32 percent."

Read the full statement here >>

June 7, 2020: New faces elected to town boards after added 2 months of contention

Dec. 4, 2019, through June 6, 2020: 2020 town election background 

This news summary was published Sunday, June 14, 2020, and updated June 16, to note petitions received.