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Asian group lodges voting complaint

Some voting precincts across the state encountered minor problems as federal observers and advocacy groups closely watched voting in the primary today.

Officials for the New-York based Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which had about a half-dozen poll observers visiting polling sites across the state, said they registered complaints today with the secretary of state and Boston elections officials charging that candidates' names were not translated into Asian languages on primary ballots.

Glenn Magpantay, a lawyer for the group, said Asian voters with limited English skills may have trouble identifying the candidates in English.

Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, said the office had received the complaint, but that the issue raised by the Asian group was not part of an agreement with the Department of Justice reached last year.""That was not part of the agreement, to transliterate the names,'' McNiff said this afternoon.

Elsewhere around the state, there was an "irate" man in a Burlington precinct, slight electrical problems in Lowell, and a few difficulties with scanners used to count ballots in Boston, elections officials said. But overall, many cities and towns in Massachusetts have reported no serious incidents as of 1:30 p.m. as residents hit the polls and federal observers continued to monitor voting procedures at various sites.

In Burlington a little after noon, a man walked into one of its six precincts demanding to see the check-off list of voters. He was not allowed to do that, but he argued about it for about 20 minutes before he was told to leave, said Jane Chew, a town clerk.

"He was very irate and he was arguing for a long time," she said, adding that it did not disrupt the voters at the precinct.

In Lowell's 33 precincts, an election clerk said there had been brief electrical problems with the machines regarding power outlets. But voters still could cast ballots in a separate hand-count compartment.

"Even if the machine was not up and running, the voters can still vote," said Joann O'Brien, an election clerk. "It does not impede or hinder the election at all."

In Boston, there were a few reports at polling places of malfunctions with some scanners -- which are used to count the ballots and do not affect the voting process, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino said this morning.

Clerks and officials in Cambridge and Springfield said that there had been no confusion with the ballot designs, disruptions by candidates, or failures with the voting machines.

"The machines are running fine today so far, knock on wood," Joe Kaplan, assistant director of the Cambridge Election Commission. "Everything seems to be pretty quiet here."

Federal observers are monitoring polling places across the state today to make sure the communities comply with a federal act to protect the voting rights of Hispanic, Chinese, Vietnamese and other immigrant voters.

The Justice Department had sued Boston and Springfield for alleged violations at polling places in an effort to ensure that cities and towns comply with the Voting Rights Act. The act requires communities to provide election help in cities and towns with a minority voter population of at least 5 percent or 10,000.

Last year, Boston agreed to hire more bilingual poll workers, provide more training, and have ballots and registration notices in other languages including Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese. At the polls in Springfield, bilingual poll workers had been hired to help Spanish-speaking residents, the city announced last week.

In Boston, staffing at the polls in the city appeared to exceed mandated levels, with some 1,525 poll workers reporting for duty this morning.

Qunicy city clerk Joe Shea said that voter turnout has been a little heavier than predicted as of late Tuesday afternoon -- with around 26 to 27 percent of the city's 53,805 voters showing up at the city's 30 precincts. The numbers are a little lower than in 2002, largely because there were local races on the ballot last time. "It's not overwhelming, and everything is running smoothly," Shea said. No problems were reported as of 4 p.m.

Mass. Primary 2006 - Latest Globe Coverage
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