A disruption caused by a single agitator during the primary election at Cambridge Elementary School last month has the town’s selectboard contemplating enhanced security measures in November.
According to an eyewitness who asked not to be identified out of concerns for his safety, a man identified as Brian Albarelli arrived at the elementary school Aug. 9, disrupting the polling place and making some fear for their safety.
Those present included Sen. Richard Westman, a Republican running unopposed for reelection, and Lucy Boyden, a Democrat running to replace Lucy Rogers in the House who had no primary opponent.
According to Boyden, Albarelli was being “disruptive.”
Albarelli loudly accosted Boyden and Westman for over an hour, according to the source, and brought up concerns about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
Vermont State Police were called to the scene but took approximately an hour to arrive. Public information officer Adam Silverman confirmed that the police responded to reports of a “potentially heated discussion between two individuals at the polls” but an investigation determined “there was no criminal conduct” and police took no action.
Albarelli left after being questioned by police, the source said, but returned later in the afternoon and stood outside the elementary gymnasium where voting was taking place for several hours.
The confrontation and Albarelli’s return prompted Boyden not to return to the polling location later in the afternoon as she had planned.
At an Aug. 16 meeting of the Cambridge Selectboard, town clerk Dana “Donna” Warren, who was present at the polling location throughout the primary election, said she found what happened “very disturbing” and indicated that voters may have felt uncomfortable. She said she would like “someone there” for the General Election, according to meeting minutes.
Boyden also said she would support advanced security measures in November.
“I think it’s important that our polling locations are a safe and calm area where people can go in and vote, but then also talk to candidates before they vote and get a clearer message as they may be undecided. At the time of the primary, that wasn’t the case,” she said.
Albarelli did not respond to a request for comment but was cleared of criminal charges for a similar incident that occurred over a decade ago.
According to Courthouse News Service, Albarelli approached a voter registration table hosted by Vermonters for Hope, an organization that worked to elect President Barack Obama, in Burlington during the 2008 election and loudly accused “Obama and those who were about to register to vote of being ‘terrorists.’”
Albarelli left before police arrived but returned several days later to stop supporters from approaching the registration table. Police ticketed him for disorderly conduct.
He was initially convicted of the charge by a jury, but the Vermont Supreme Court eventually reversed the decision in 2011, ruling that there was not enough evidence to prove that Albarelli intended to harm anyone.
The Cambridge Selectboard hasn’t decided how they’ll handle General Election security. Some ideas floated by town administrator Jonathan DeLaBruere included putting time from the town’s contract with the state police toward election security or reaching out to the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department.
The selectboard has also consulted with the administration and school board at Cambridge Elementary as students will be in class while the General Election is held.
The selectboard is still gathering information and considering options regarding what kind of enhanced security measures might be employed or if any will be employed at all, according to vice chair Jeff Coslett.
The matter will be discussed Tuesday at the board’s next meeting.