Dozens of Ballots Destroyed After Boston Drop Box Set on Fire in Suspected Arson

A ballot drop box in Boston was set on fire Sunday, ruining dozens of ballots and adding fuel to the frustrating fire for Americans and officials amid a global pandemic during an election year. With safe ways to vote having become hugely important, the idea of voting by mail has been highly polarizing this fall.

A federal investigation has been launched after the apparent deliberate act as the FBI and Boston Police team up in search of the person responsible. The fire started early Sunday morning in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood around 4 a.m. and by the time firefighters reached its location, dozens of ballots had already been destroyed. Photographs show a suspect who appears to be holding something with a bright flame as he walked towards the ballot box, according to the Daily Beast.

The Boston Election Department posted on Twitter that dozens of ballots had been destroyed, but 87 of the 122 ballots inside "were legible and able to be processed." In a joint statement from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) and Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin (D), "What happened in the early hours of this morning to the ballot dropbox in Copley Square is a disgrace to democracy, a disrespect to the voters fulfilling their civic duty, and a crime."

While reviewing surveillance footage, the FBI noted, "It is a top priority of our offices to help maintain the integrity of the election process in Massachusetts by aggressively enforcing federal election laws." In the meantime, Boston election officials are requesting that anyone who used that location after 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, contact them to receive a new ballot. While voter ballots may have been destroyed, the actual drop box itself has remained in solid condition and is still being utilized. The Boston Election Department has noted that all boxes are "under 24-hour surveillance and emptied on a daily basis."

While this may be a discouraging incident, it's not the only one of its kind. This is at least the second alleged arson attack on a ballot drop box this month, according to the Washington Post, as Americans find safe ways to vote early as a result of COVID-19. In Southern California, at least 100 ballots were completely destroyed when another drop box was set ablaze.