Are voter intimidation and fraud a serious problem in Philadelphia?

    Charges of voter fraud and intimidation seem par for the course in any big Philly election.  Yesterday our reporters criss crossed the city, reporting on election day problems.  An excerpt of the blog is below.

    On election eve Commissioner Stephanie Singer and Republican Ward Leader Kevin Kelly hashed out some of Kelly’s allegations of intimidation.  Listen to the audio for their sometimes heated debte.


    9 a.m.

    Early reports to the Committee of Seventy, the Philadelphia election watchdog group, indicated a number of Republican poll watchers have reported problems getting access to polling places or being treated rudely by election workers. A number of cases have been referred to today’s Election Court.

    Also, there is a report of members of the New Black Panthers Party allegedly intimidating voters in a polling place on Germantown Avenue east of Broad Street.  An incident in 2008 at a Spring Garden Street polling place involving members of this group became a national cause celebre, as some conservatives claimed it showed the Obama Justice Department was slow to pursue complaints of intimidation against Republican voters.

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    The Committee of Seventy is also hearing numerous complaints that voters are being told they need to produce photo identification to vote.  A new state law requiring voters to show photo ID was suspended for this election by a Pennsylvania judge, who said the state hadn’t done enough to help people obtain the needed ID.

    The committee also put out an alert about an email being distributed around Philadelphia that tells people, falsely, that pulling a straight Democratic Party lever in the voting booth will not register as a vote for President Obama.  This is not true.  Straight party votes for either the Republican or Democratic parties will register a voter for the party’s presidential nominee.


    9:38 a.m.

    “It’s looking like a messy election.”

    That’s from Zack Stalberg, President and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, the city election watchdog.

    Here’s the Committee’s first update on the day, based on reports from its volunteers on the phones and at the polls.

    * Election Court is dealing with a host of minority (Republican) inspectors being denied access to their polling places in Philadelphia.  (WHYY/NewsWorks’ Benjamin Herold reports this was an issue at the Guerin Recreation  Center polling place (Ward 48, Division 13) in South Philly.

    * The New Black Panthers reportedly showed up, though no one can find them now. Reports were that they were outside a polling place at 11th and Germantown streets. (NewsWorks’ attempts to find this activity or confirm it have so far not been successful.)  Update: Committee of Seventy also reports no luck finding any sign of New Black Panther activity.   Also, reports are the Mayor Nutter himself went to the area to check out the report and found nothing.

    * There are “You need a photo ID to vote” signs at a number of polling places. Seventy has asked the City Commissioners to have Judges of Elections take those signs down immediately.  You don’t need a photo ID to vote today in Pennsylvania, though elections officials are supposed to ask you if you have one.

    * A polling place at 7th and Cayoga Streets – in the city’s Latino area – has numerous voters who do not speak English – and reportedly no interpreter in sight.

    Here are a few updates from our Northwest Philadephia news team:

    One of the two voting machines at Allens Lane Art Center in Mt. Airy was broken when polls opened this morning. He says a technician was on the way and the line was moving more smoothly by 8 a.m.

    Turnout was heavy early today at the Lingelbach Elementary School in Germantown today.  NewsWorks contributor Kiera Smalls talked to some in line who said they were going to leave and come back later to vote.

    Ruby Payette, a young first-time voter from Mount Airy in Philadelphia, summed up the emotions of a lot of people on this anxious day as America elects a president:  “I’ve been talking to some friends that I know are voting for opposing parties from me,” she said. “I’m kinda scared, but at the same time excited. Because I get to have a say in my president.” 

    10:17 a.m.  — A ‘messy’ start in Philadelphia

    Stephanie Singer, chair of the Philadelphia city commissioners, just disputed the Committee of Seventy’s claim that the election is off to a messy start in the city.

    She told Newsworks’ Dave Davies that it’s been “relatively quiet” in terms of problems and complaints.

    From a polling place in Germantown, NewsWorks’ Brian Hickey reports the canard about straight-ticket voting not counting for president is being discussed by people in line.  A ward leader tried to supplies the correct information. (See 9 a.m. post below).

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