Are Philadelphia elections officials taking sides in Republican infighting?

    City won’t send certificates to winners in committee races

    A small rebellion within Philadelphia’s Republican party has touched off a battle over how to elect committee people. Now the reformers say the office of City Commissioners has taken the side of the city’s Republican establishment.

    For decades, the city’s Republican Party has been controlled by a small group of people. Now, an upstart faction that is critical of the current leadership wants to revive the party. And they want to do that by recruiting new committee people. The entrenched Republican City Committee recently changed its bylaws to make it more difficult for the insurgent group to get its recruits elected.

    But the City Commissioners, they’re the ones who certify elections in Philadelphia, say they will do things differently this year. They’re sending official certificates of victory to the Republican leadership, not to the committee people themselves. That gives the Republican City Committee the responsibility of notifying the winners.

    Matt Wolfe is one of the reformers and a ward leader from West Philadelphia. So, how did Wolfe respond to the move?

    “Amusement. To be perfectly honest, because it’s so stupid and so contrary to state law.”

    Now, official certificates are needed to get in the door of the next party meeting. That’s where committee people cast their vote for the ward leaders.

    And Wolfe is worried that some elected committee people won’t be let in because they won’t have that certification in hand.

    But the established Republican Party leadership, including Michael Meehan says there’s no way any committee person would be disenfranchised.

    “The realities of it are if someone attempted to do something improper you would have all kinds of documents to support it. The results from the City Commissioners are public information.”

    City Commissioners claim they made this change to prevent confusion over who was allowed into that meeting, and who wasn’t.

    Philadelphia’s election watchdog The Committee of Seventy is skeptical about the Commissioner’s decision, especially given the current feud. The Committee’s executive director Zack Stalberg says this decision is another example of why the elected office of the City Commissioners should be abolished.

    “Elections in Philadelphia should not be run by political people but by non-partisan professionals. These are the kinds of decisions you get when ward leaders are running elections.”

    But Stalberg says it will be a long time before elected politicians and ward leaders in the city let go of the office of City Commissioners.

    An attorney for the state Republican Party says it will challenge the Commissioner’s decision to send election results to party leaders instead of to the winning candidates.

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