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Voter intimidation letter to U.S. Attorney's Office
Voter intimidation letter to U.S. Attorney's Office
Voter intimidation letter to U.S. Attorney's Office
Voter intimidation letter to U.S. Attorney's Office
Voter intimidation letter to U.S. Attorney's Office
Voter intimidation letter to U.S. Attorney's Office
Voter intimidation letter to U.S. Attorney's Office
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Voter intimidation letter to U.S. Attorney's Office

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Van Liew Requests U.S. Attorney's Office Investigate Intimidation on Election Day …

Van Liew Requests U.S. Attorney's Office Investigate Intimidation on Election Day

Roland Van Liew charges "voter coercion and voter intimidation" during his drive to collect signatures for a recall petition.

By Les Masterson | Email the author | November 9, 2010

Roland Van Liew, who attempted to recall Planning Board members via petition during election day last week, is charging "voter coercion and voter intimidation" during his drive to collect signatures for the petition. He is demanding a full investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

In a letter written to the U.S. Attorney's Office on Nov. 3, Chelmsford Attorney Richard P. McClure, who is representing Van Liew and also filed a lawsuit in Land Court in regards to the 9 North Road development proposal on Monday, said "the actions of the perpetrators" violated multiple sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

McClure charged that comments made by town officials, Web site commenters and "anonymous bloggers" harassed, coerced and intimidated Van Liew.

Van Liew is also charging that the petition signature collectors he hired on election day were "verbally insulted, coerced and intimidated by supporters of the Planning Board members he wanted removed from the board. These negative reactions on election day forced Van Liew to stop his petition campaign, he said.

According to Van Liew, he has received "threatening" mail and phone calls about his election day effort and has filed a formal police complaint against one resident.

http://chelmsford.patch.com

Published in: News & Politics
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  • 1. Richard P. McClure Attorney at Law 8 Westford Street Chelmsford, MA 01824 (508) 572-2418 November 3, 2010 U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Division John Joseph Moakley United States Federal Courthouse 1 Courthouse Way, Suite 9200 Boston, MA 02210 Dear Sir/Madam, Please be advised that this office has consulted with and been retained by Mr. Roland Van Liew of Chelmsford, Massachusetts regarding allegations of voter coercion and voter intimidation before and during the recent federal election on November 2, 2010 involving voter signature gathering in furtherance of a municipal recall election. This office finds Mr. Van Liew’s allegations to be highly credible and the actions of the perpetrators to violate multiple sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and, in light of same, respectfully demands that your office conduct a full investigation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1973. As the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stated in Padilla v. Lever et al, 463 F.3d 1046 (2006): “Thus, the choice whether to sign or not sign a recall petition can have a tremendous impact on the fate of the incumbent. Indeed, in the First Amendment context, the right to vote is inextricably tied to the right to petition and petition signatures are treated the same as votes for constitutional purposes. See Green v. City of Tucson, 340 F.3d 891, 893 (9th Cir.2003); see also Buckley v. Am. Constitutional Law Found., 525 U.S. 182, 186, 119 S.Ct. 636, 142 L.Ed.2d 599 (1999) (noting that under First Amendment, petition circulation "is core political speech because it involves interactive communication concerning political change" (internal quotations omitted)); Meyer v. Grant, 486 U.S. 414, 421, 108 S.Ct. 1886, 100 L.Ed.2d 425 (1988) ("The circulation of an initiative petition of necessity involves both the expression of a desire for political change and a discussion of the merits of the proposed change."). Given the importance of petitions to recall procedure, they should be deemed "voting materials…" The facts and respective timeline are established as follows:
  • 2. 1. On or about June, 2010, Mr. Van Liew sought to initiate a recall election of two members of the Town of Chelmsford Planning Board, George Zaharoolis and Susan Carter pursuant to applicable provisions of the Town Charter. Said Charter requires affidavits signed by at least 25 registered voters from each of the town’s 9 precincts to be filed with the Town Clerk. Upon “filing” of said affidavits, the Town Clerk was to issue “Recall Petitions” to the affidavit signers for the collection of signatures by registered voters of the town. Upon filing of petitions signed by at least 10% of the total registered voters of the town within 14 days of issuance, a recall election would be scheduled. 2. On or about October 20, 2010, Mr. Van Liew presented sufficient affidavit signatures to the town clerk, Elizabeth Delaney, and on October 22, 2010, was issued 3,000 recall petitions by the town clerk and immediately commenced signature gathering via multiple means. 3. On October 24, 2010, the Lowell Sun published an article titled “Chelmsford officials on recall effort: Enough” and included the following: The Board of Selectman plans to make a statement regarding the recall petition at its meeting tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Selectman Jon Kurland… said trying to recall Zaharoolis and Carter over their votes is going too far. "I'm very much against this recall. It makes no sense," said Kurland. Kurland said the recall effort is a "power play by an individual who has been very divisive in town." "If we try to recall elected officials because we don't agree with the way they vote, does that mean we should have a recall every time there's a difference of opinion?" Kurland said. "That's not the way our government should be run.” Cohen said recall provisions in any city or town are not exercised often. "Usually, it happens over a serious offense or an egregious matter, such as embezzlement or fraud," Cohen said. "Disagreeing with the way a committee member votes is probably not the way the recall bylaw was envisioned."
  • 3. If VanLiew meets the deadline for collecting 2,500 names and the signatures are certified by the town clerk, then the Board of Selectmen will be required to call a special election within 60 to 90 days. A special election would cost between $17,000 and $18,000, Cohen said. 4. On October 22 and 26, 2010, Frances McDougall, a Chelmsford resident and duly elected Town Meeting Representative, posted the following commentary via electronic mail following the publication of articles in chelmsfordmassnews.com to deliberately harass, coerce and intimidate Mr. Van Liew and other voters: Fran McDougall OCT 22 • Enough already, Roland. To all who feel this garbage has to stop please contact Mr. Van Liew at 6 Hemlock Dr. or call him at 978-250-1707. He has chosen to enter our homes with all his libelous mailings, so it is time for us to reach out to him in his domain. Start sending those letters now. Fran McDougall OCT 26 • Tia and Sura, I applaud your wishes to make use of the system to sign your name to the recall. As you know, the names of those who sign are on a public document and therefore available for public viewing. I'm looking forward to seeing that list so that I can finally put real names to those cutsie ones that you fearful people post on your comments. I will also oblige you by posting your addresses so that your neighbors can visit you and congratulate you on the "courage of your convictions". See you at the polls. 5. The printed comments of Frances McDougall spawned similar threats and intimidating statements from anonymous “bloggers” in attempts to threaten, harass, coerce and intimidate potential voters, including but not limited to: Van lewd OCT 25 • Roland is an embarrassment to our town and continues to lie and spread his propaganda to push his totalitarian agenda of his way or the highway. Do us all a favor and take a bullet for your warped cause... A bullet to the head. 6. The printed comments of Frances McDougall generated additional comments by readers that her threats and intimidation were, in fact, having a coercive and intimidating effect on voters such as: Re; FRAN OCT 26 • WOW, Now the people who want to exercise their concerns by
  • 4. signing a petition will be put on a hit list to discourage our Consitutional rights.... That's what Hitler would do. Now anonymous OCT 27 • Fran McDougall, I hope your posting isn't a thinly-veiled threat of harm and that you are sincere in your admiration for those who signed the petitions, and respectful to those of us who also vote in this town. May I remind you that voter intimidation is a felony?! I would also really hate to think that you are actually encouraging people to "visit" the homes of the residents of this town who signed the petition. May I make a suggestion? Perhaps you should clarify your posting. Anonymous now but not later OCT 28 • Fran, I am eagerly waiting for clarification to your 26Oct post. Are you using threat to suppress or dissuade registered voters from exercising their constitutional right, or did you misspeak? "no person shall before, during, or after any primary, convention, or election attempt by intimidation, coercion, or other unlawful means to induce" a person "to vote or refrain from voting at a primary, convention, or election for a particular person, question, or issue." BTW the process of a "recall" of an elected official is legally acknowledged by the courts as a "vote for an issue.” 7. On October 25, the Town of Chelmsford Board of Selectmen held a public hearing the “agenda” of which included a discussion of the “Recall Election.” During said publicly televised Hearing, the Board of Selectmen unlawfully and improperly permitted the two Planning Board members, Zaharoolis and Carter, to appear and publicly campaign against their recall. See streaming video at 54:45 minute mark, October 25, 2010 Selectmen’s Meeting at http://www.chelmsfordtv.org/streaming.php . 8. During said publicly televised Hearing, the Board of Selectmen, jointly and individually, and the Town Manager, Paul Cohen, (45 minute mark) unlawfully and improperly utilized their positions to campaign against the recall of the Planning Board members and against a recall election. Said town officials attempted to coerce and intimidate voters from signing recall petitions by, inter alia, citing the expenses of such a recall election costing the taxpayers up to $20,000.00. See streaming video throughout.
  • 5. 9. During said publicly televised Hearing, Selectman Jon Kurland, unlawfully and improperly advised town residents, “if you receive a such a recall petition in the mail…throw it out!” See streaming video at 59:50 mark. 10. In addition to direct mailings, Mr. Van Liew, hired signature gatherers and assigned them amongst the town’s 9 voting precincts on election day, November 2, 2010. Throughout election day, said signature gatherers and potential signers at the polls were verbally insulted, coerced and intimidated by supporters of Zaharoolis and Carter; but, more specifically, by Mr. Zaharoolis himself. Names and contact information for said signature gatherers are available upon request. 11. On November 3, 2010, when the inability to gather sufficient signatures due to said voter coercion and intimidation became apparent, Mr. Van Liew terminated signature gathering efforts. 12. Mr. Van Liew continues to receive threatening mail and phone calls regarding his recall election efforts and has filed a formal complaint against Frances McDougall with the Chelmsford Police Department which is pending. Again, Mr. Van Liew, respectfully demands a full investigation by your office into each and all of these charges of unlawful voter intimidation and coercion by Frances McDougall, George Zaharoolis, the Town of Chelmsford Board of Selectmen; individually and jointly, and Town Manager, Paul Cohen. "Whenever any person has engaged" in a violation of Section 11(b) by intimidating or threatening voters, the Attorney General may seek "an action for preventive relief." § 1973j(d). Claims for injunctive relief at this stage are obviously moot; however, as such unlawful acts are capable of repetition, Mr. Van Liew requests that actions be commenced by your office seeking declaratory relief against said defendants alleging: Defendants have violated Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973i(b), by coercing, threatening, and intimidating voters; Defendants have violated Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973i(b), by attempting to coerce, threaten, and intimidate voters; Defendants have violated Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973i(b), by coercing, threatening, and intimidating those urging or aiding voters to vote; and
  • 6. Defendants have violated Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973i(b), by attempting to coerce, threaten, and intimidate those urging or aiding voters to vote. Your anticipated cooperation in this matter is greatly appreciated. Should you have further questions, please do not hesitate to call me. Sincerely, Richard P. McClure, Esquire cc/ Wm. F. Galvin, Elections Division
  • 7. Defendants have violated Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973i(b), by attempting to coerce, threaten, and intimidate those urging or aiding voters to vote. Your anticipated cooperation in this matter is greatly appreciated. Should you have further questions, please do not hesitate to call me. Sincerely, Richard P. McClure, Esquire cc/ Wm. F. Galvin, Elections Division

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