4 charged with vote manipulation in Philadelphia special election

Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro outlines charges against election officials in a Philadelphia special election.  (Tom MacDonald, WHYY)

Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro outlines charges against election officials in a Philadelphia special election. (Tom MacDonald, WHYY)

Pennsylvania and Philadelphia prosecutors have charged four people with interfering in a special city election in state House’s 197th District.

The judge of elections, two inspectors and a translator at the Esperanza Health Center polling place in North Philadelphia have been charged with violating the state election code. Several of the two dozen votes cast at the polling place March 21 are questionable, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

“This group worked together to intimidate, to commit fraud, to conspire with one another, to undermine the election — and broke the law in the process,” Shapiro said Monday.

Interim Philadelphia District Attorney Kelly Hodge called it a team effort to manipulate votes.

“These defendants were brash, they were coordinated, and their actions are a ruthless example of why our citizens are skeptical and distrustful of our elections,” Hodge said.

The alleged fraud came in a special election where the Democrat — Emilio Vazquez — failed to qualify for the ballot and was running as a write-in candidate. After winning over challengers including Republican nominee Lucinda Little and Green Party nominee Cheri Honkala, he was sworn into office in April.

The prosecutors say the investigation is ongoing but so far the fraud was not enough to overturn the election results.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.