HomeNewsPotential Voter Fraud Discovered at Annual Town Meeting

Potential Voter Fraud Discovered at Annual Town Meeting

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Key Takeaways

  • 144 votes were cast in the final article, but only 130 people were in attendance
  • An eyewitness account confirmed seeing residents with multiple clickers
  • The threshold for a quorum is 131 registered voters, calling into question whether it was legal to proceed
  • Town Clerk Connor Degan is reviewing the findings

A HopNews review of recorded footage from the third night of Annual Town Meeting reveals that there were fewer people in attendance than were recorded votes. Depending on the article under consideration, this may have affected the outcome of the vote.

The first article to come to an electronic vote was Article 36, which asked voters to approve the Specialized Energy Code. There were 264 votes cast, and the motion prevailed 170 to 94.

The next electronic vote was Article 39, to approve the MBTA Communities Multi-Family Overlay District. This was hotly contested, particularly by residents of The Preserve, who stacked the room to express their vocal opposition to the measure. Ultimately the vote failed by just 8 votes; 244 votes were recorded, with 118 voting Yes and 126 voting No.

Susan Costanza, owner of JC Parmenter Septic presented Article 40, which sought to rezone her property for commercial use. This was heavily debated by her neighbors and abutters, forcing an electronic vote. The measure passed with 207 total votes; 144 voted Yes and 63 voted No.

Several residents filed out of the hall following the vote, presumably those that had rallied in support of Ms. Costanza, prompting a question in the hall of whether a quorum was still present. The threshold for a quorum is 131 voters; had there not been a quorum the meeting would have been suspended. 

Moderator Ellen Rutter instructed Assistant Clerk Nicole Levy to conduct a roll call of the clickers in the room, and it was determined that 158 clickers were recorded. The meeting continued.

170 votes were recorded for Article 42 (allowing non-registered voters membership on committees), 153 votes for Article 44 (leash law amendment), 144 for Article 49 (a property sale), 147 for Article 51 (amend the town charter to confirm the strong police chief), and finally 144 votes for Article 52 (to form a government study committee). 

Between the MBTA Communities vote and Ms. Costanza’s rezone, the meeting lost 16% of attendees. A further 18% departed following the vote on Ms. Costanza’s article.

Attendance more or less flattened out from there, averaging 147 votes across the remaining four articles that came to electronic vote.

But a review of the footage from HCAM shows that at most there were only 130 people in attendance by the time Article 52, the final of the night, was considered.  

It is important to note that the electronic voting system creates a geofence in the room, where clickers are only supposed to activate for those in the auditorium. This is consistent with Town Meeting rules where only those present are counted in any vote.

By the end of the evening there were no voters in the Brown gym, which had been reserved for guests. Further, by Town Meeting rules, proxy voting is not permitted.

Below is a wide shot of the auditorium at the start of Article 52. Some voters are out of frame, namely members of the Select Board, Appropriations Committee, the Town Clerk and Moderator, and Presenter, Kelly Depaulo. When accounting for everyone visible and those out of frame, the total is 121 people. But 144 total votes were cast, which insinuates that some voters had more than one clicker in their possession.

This assertion was substantiated by an eyewitness, who spoke with HopNews on the condition of anonymity. “I saw more than one person with two clickers in their hand,” the woman said.

Another attendee, who also wished to remain anonymous, said that she had left the room during the leash law debate to go to the parking lot to charge her phone. “I left my clicker with my husband,” she said. Upon her return, the election worker simply asked to see her voting card to confirm she had already been checked in, and the woman returned to her seat. 

Below is a second view of the auditorium when Article 51 was under consideration, and shows more of the left side of the room. In this shot there are 48 people on the left side, who are now in frame. This is 9 more than were visible for Article 52. The true count is actually 49; police detail officer Chuck Wallace, who wears a neon vest, has moved from the right side to the left by that time, so he has not been double counted. 

When combining these two images into a composite, the most attendees counted (including those out of frame) is 130. This assumes that everyone in attendance was a registered voter (which is not the case as there were students who accompanied their parents), and that no one left between Articles 51 and 52, which is also implausible because witnesses saw people exiting at the conclusion of 51.

There is no obvious logical explanation for the 14 “phantom voters”. It appears that some voters may have checked in but later left the room, and their clickers with someone else.

This raises the question of whether a quorum was present at all, and also if the outcome of the MBTA Communities article and the Government Study article would have been different had it truly been “one person, one vote”.

Town Clerk Connor Degan, whose office supervises elections, was reached for comment.

The Hopkinton Town Clerk’s Office has received no formal report or evidence of any instance of fraudulent voting or multiple attendees with voting devices at Town Meeting,” wrote Degan. “The Town Clerk’s Office treats any such reports of fraud with utmost seriousness.  Any reports can be made by submitting such reports in writing to the Town Clerk’s Office or emailing the report to townclerk@hopkintonma.gov so that an investigation can be initiated.

Subsequent to receiving this statement, HopNews filed an official complaint with the Town Clerk and Interim Town Manager.

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43 COMMENTS

  1. Again HopNews comes through by reporting things that would have never seen the light of day without their excellent investigative journalism. Thank you, HopNews!

  2. Wow – Clicker-Gate has hit Hopkinton. At least we do not suffer from ‘Hanging Chad’ syndrome. Lock your doors people! Great article editor!

  3. We have the technology to allow for remote voting on line. Since Covid-19, many in the cooperate world have held their annual shareholders meetings remotely. These meetings are conducted by multi billion dollar companies with thousands of shareholders voting. The checks and balances are working for them, why can’t we follow suit? It will also give our elderly residents who can’t get to town meeting an opportunity to participate and vote. Another positive aspect is that residents traveling on vacation or business would be able to participate.

  4. But we had the best security! Chief Bennett all 3 nights and his sidekick who still hasn’t sewed his new stripes on a uniform so came in disguise as a civilian. Night 1 came alone dropped 1 clicker leaving. Night 2 came with wife left with wife dropped 3 clickers person handed me there’s. Did not use but turned in when I left. Night 3 came alone left alone after vote 52 turned in 8 to ten clickers from people there talking in the hall as a joke that there was no security of clickers. Chief and sidekick was gone before the meeting was over leaving only retired chief on detail. Probably when crimes were committed.

  5. NO clapping!!! NOOOO Clapping!!! (insert awkward banging of microphone here). Mr. Thomas, look at me when you speak please! (Insert awkward mannerisms here). We can have illegal voting, but I will NOT tolerate clapping!!!

  6. Anyone leaving the room should have to produce and turn in their clicker. If they return after using the bathroom, going to their car to charge phone, etc., they could get it back. Leaving a clicker in the room with another person to vote in your place is or should be illegal. Unbelievable that this issue wasn’t anticipated and that a protocol to prevent it wasn’t established and enforced. I think the town clerk would be the one responsible for establishing protocols to secure the integrity of the new clicker voting system. The police might not have been instructed by him to collect clickers by anyone leaving the room, although it should have been obvious. Would be interesting to know.

  7. Do you have actual hard evidence of someone holding and voting on two clickers? Is there a picture? A video? Did the person who claimed they saw more than one person capture this in any way or are you just trusting what this person has to say without corroborating it at all? Could this person have seen your other “source” holding two clickers? How do we know that your source’s husband didn’t violate the law by voting twice? I’m hoping that you have vetted your sources in this article and have corroborated your claims, as a proper journalist would. It’s really important that there be actual vetted, corroborated evidence here because you are alleging an actual crime. I’m also hoping this evidence is real and verifiable, and you have reported it to the authorities, as any violator of the law should be prosecuted the fullest extent.

    The problem I have here is that you are heavily relying on two anonymous sources, because in journalism, anonymous sources are considered less than ideal. The Associated Press, for instance, will only use a single anonymous source if the anonymous source is someone who is, “an authoritative figure who provides information so detailed that there is no question of its accuracy.” Does your single anonymous source alleging multiple residents holding multiple clickers meet this standard? Why were they given anonymity? The reason I ask this is because you owe it to your readers and the community that you report on to provide the most accurate reporting possible with the best sourcing possible, especially when you are alleging that members of the voting body at Town Meeting were committing crimes.

    • You raise excellent points. We are certain that the information provided is verifiable; we know the sources were in attendance because we saw them and spoke with them all three nights. We are also assured that they will cooperate with authorities should there be a subsequent investigation. Further, they will provide testimony that is unimpeachable.

      This is a serious matter, which is why we brought it forth. If we had any doubt as to its authenticity we would not have raised it. The analysis was shared with several people, including elected officials and those that work in Town Hall prior to publishing. They all agreed that our conclusion, based on the available evidence, was likely accurate.

    • The wide angle screen shots at time of votes. What other evidence do you need? It’s basic arithmetic no?

      • Hi Craig, thanks for the response. I agree with you, if all of the people counted in the screenshot are the only voters, the numbers don’t add up. That was not my point. In fact, my response is not to discredit the information in the article, it is more to make sure that HopNews has done their due diligence in reporting and sourcing (something I have found issue with their reporting in the past, especially with the use of anonymous sources). Since voter fraud is a crime, I want to make sure all the evidence and sourcing is as accurate as possible for people like you and all of Hopkinton.

        To your point, anyone can count the number of people on video in the room. From those screenshots, can you tell if and who are holding multiple clickers? My only point is that I want to make sure that the claims that are anonymously sourced in the article are also corroborated by other sources and not just “a single anonymous person said this.” Because the source is anonymous, we as readers don’t know who they are or what their motives are, etc. That’s not to discredit the source’s information, it is just something you have to take into account with an anonymous source, which is why it is not ideal in journalism. If there were people voting multiple times, you would want as much verified, corroborated evidence of that as possible, and have them held criminally accountable, no?

  8. This is great entertainment for those of who once lived in what was once a great little town. What will be next?

  9. This video will be scrutinized more than the magic lougie zapruder film featuring Roger McDowell hitting Newman and Kramer from the bushes.

    • Were there any suspicious residents hanging out on the grassy knoll? I thought I heard some clickers ringing out from behind the picket fence. LOL.

  10. There were voters in the gym on Wed evening. At least 3. I talked to one and she said there were 3 or 4. Where did you get the information no one was in the gym?

      • Typically, when a news article has a factual error, the editor corrects it. This statement “That evening there were no voters in the Brown gym, which had been reserved for guests.” is clearly wrong and has not been corrected.m , despite a few comments that were read and requesting it to be righted. My understanding is that anyone in the building who has a clicker can vote. Though I did not personally test my clicker from the hallway, I used it near the doorway at two points. There were people in the HCAM room who may have been voters. I also know at one point, I was not at my seat and forgot to take my clicker with me – the person with me held my clicker in her hand until I returned so it wouldn’t roll around the floor. Unless HopNews provides correct info and is willing to look thoroughly into the rules and facts, this article seems suspect. Take the extra hours to make such a large accusation accurate and correct it when needed, please. While digging is appreciated, so is responsible journalism.

        • As a point of fact, the clickers did not work in the HCAM studio. Nor did they work in the gym. Another fact: at 11:30 (when Article 52 was voted on) there were no voters in the Brown gym.

  11. This is absolutely irresponsible reporting. I MYSELF WAS IN THE GYM EVERY NIGHT, INCLUDING THE FINAL ONE! There were 2 or 3 other people in there with me. I left about 9:30, at which time 2 or 3 others were still there. I am a resident with reduced immunity, so was advised by town officials to sit in that more spacious room, which I did. If you were so sloppy proclaiming this categorical statement, what else were you sloppy about? Don’t rile people up for the sensationalist fun of it! There’re enough legitimate wrongs in the world without disseminating FALSE NEWS. “Reader, Beware!”

    • Thank you for your comment, Ms. Barton. The Brown Gym was clearly labeled for non-voting guests, and this was confirmed with election officials. We don’t question that they made an exception for you and others, but the fact remains that it was not a primary seating area for registered voters.

      You’ll also note that the Night 3 meeting ended around 11:30. Our analysis referred to the final article of the night, 52, which was discussed at that time. You left at 9:30, at which time the Colonial Ave rezone (JC Parmenter) article was being discussed. At that time of the night there were still at least 207 voters present, a full 63 more than were remaining than by 11:30.

  12. It would seem the point in the article stating there were no voters in the gym should be corrected, and their count acknowledged in the totals.

  13. I believe Article 42 was NOT for non-resident membership on committees but rather for NON-REGISTERED VOTERS allowed to be on certain town committees. The NON-REGISTERED VOTERS must be Hopkinton residents.

  14. If there is even a question of the legitimacy of the votes, I think we should immediately reschedule the meeting and re-do it all. This is NOT a minor issue and the evidence is compelling enough that we should accept that a new vote is required to ensure the genuine will of the voters is declared, whichever way that is on each vote.

    • No disrespect but stop being ridiculous. There’s a few simple fixes . One sign in sign out with clicker # attached to a name. Two save an article like Hopkins school for # 52 or last vote . The town didn’t want to hear article 52 and didn’t want push back on article 51 so placed at the end of session. Typical votes at the end of session fly through with little feedback.

      • No disrespect but while that is helpful for future votes, it does nothing to address serious and compelling allegations of voter fraud from this meeting.

  15. Just curious but does your count include those ‘on the stage’? Typically this includes BOS, Fincom, moderator, town clerk and HCAM.

    • Thanks for your comment, Mr. Garabedian. The answer is Yes. From the article:

      “Below is a wide shot of the auditorium at the start of Article 52. Some voters are out of frame, namely members of the Select Board, Appropriations Committee, the Town Clerk and Moderator, and Presenter, Kelly Depaulo. When accounting for everyone visible and those out of frame, the total is 121 people. But 144 total votes were cast, which insinuates that some voters had more than one clicker in their possession.”

  16. Was Captain Renault in the room? I’m shocked…shocked!

    I honestly feel bad for Connor Degan. He seems to work very hard and conscientiously, and in my opinion is horribly underpaid for all that he does. I have a lot of concerns about others in our town government but not Connor.

    Unfortunately, and disgustingly, some people will always try to game the system, which calls into question the validity of the voting — especially on the third night.

    Very sad day, but given what’s been going on in this town it’s hardly surprising. Thanks to Peter and HopNews for yet again shining the light on shenanigans in this town.

    “Your winnings, sir.”

    “Oh, thank you very much.”

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