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Ethiopian-American voter in Boston says proud to vote

By Laura Crimaldi and Marie Szaniszlo | Boston Herald

All provisional ballots cast this morning by dozens of Cambridge residents who encountered glitches with city voting lists during the early hours of voting will be included in tonight’s tally, an election official said.

Cambridge Election Commission Executive Director Marsha Weinerman said that the number of provisional ballots that must be tallied is small, ranging from one to 30 ballots per precinct.

Earlier in the day, an election official said the provisional ballots would be set aside until Nov. 14 when they could be verified. There are 64,000 registered voters in Cambridge.

Voters were handed provisional ballots this morning because one of four electronic disks containing voter lists for the city was not printed, said Election Commission Chairman Ethridge A. King Jr. He atttributed the mistake to “human error.”

“There’s nothing nefarious. There’s no purging of the list,” said King in a telephone interview. “It blindsighted us first thing in the morning. There were already lines.”

King said the printer problem impacted all 33 precincts in Cambridge. The missing lists were printed and delivered to precincts this morning, he said.

“To my knowledge, no one was denied the right to vote,” King said.

He said that he did not have exact figures for the number of people that were asked to cast provisional ballots, but gave estimates of 20 voters in one precinct and 40 voters in another precinct.

Angela Papierski, 39, who lives in Ward 3, Precinct 9, said poll workers had to call the Election Commission before she was allowed to vote.

“They told me I was not on the list. We’ve been registered voters in Cambridge for six years,” said Papierski, who showed up at the polls at 7 a.m. with her husband. “I was kind of shocked. When you hear about voting irregularities, I didn’t expect it to happen in Cambridge.”

Other Cambridge voters said that they had no troubles.

Wondimu Beyene, 47, a native of Ethiopia who became of U.S. citizen in April, said he had no trouble casting his first ballot in a presidential election.

“I’m really proud because I’ve never seen such democracy in my country,” said Beyene, who voted for Barack Obama. “They impressed me about health care, tax cuts, foreign policy and the economy.”

One 41-year-old woman, who declined to give her name, said she was probably one of the very few residents in ultra-liberal Cambridge to vote for GOP candidate John McCain.

“As much as I am for change, Obama just didn’t convince me he could do it,” the woman said. “I work too hard to pay for people who don’t work.”

Tom Culotta, 39, said that he voted for “directional change” by casting his ballot for Obama.

“It’s historic,” said Culotta. “I think having an African-American candidate is huge because it demonstrates how far we’ve come as a nation.”

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