Four Philly election officials charged with vote tampering in 2014 election

 Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announces voting fraud charges agianst four elected officials in the 2014 general election. (Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announces voting fraud charges agianst four elected officials in the 2014 general election. (Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

Arrest warrants have been issued for four Philadelphia election officials charged with fraud in a 2014 vote-tampering case. The announcement from city prosecutors, a day before Tuesday’s primary contest, also served as a warning that voter fraud will not be tolerated. 

Machine inspectors James Collins and Gregory Thomas noticed a discrepancy — six more voter book signs-ins than machine votes — after the Nov. 4 general election polls closed, prosecutors said.

So they conspired to make up for the missing votes, said District Attorney Seth Williams.

Collins held the voter machine curtain open while Thomas stood in front of the machine, Williams continued.

“After each vote, he stated ‘one more time,’ and Thomas reset the machine for Collins to register new votes,” Williams said.

Arrest warrants have been issued for Thomas, Collins, both machine inspectors; Alexia Harding, a minority inspector; and Sandra Lee, an election judge. 

Hardin, Collins and Thomas did not live, nor were they registered to vote, in the 1st Division, where the alleged fraud took place, triggering additional charges, prosecutors said.

The four are being charged with tampering with records, conspiracy and failure to perform duty, among other counts. Williams said the more serious charges have a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. 

The six illegal votes did not change any outcomes.

The four election officials who worked together in the alleged fraud have all been replaced.

More student monitors 

The Committee of Seventy, Philadelphia’s elections watchdog group, is gearing up for Tuesday’s primary with an army of poll-monitoring volunteers.

David Thornburgh, who leads the group, said it’s partnering with six high schools to deploy 200 students across the city. It’s part of the group’s mission to watch polls for unusual activity such as  problems with paperwork, forgeries, election officials campaigning in the polling place – but it serves another purpose.

“Seventy percent of young voters haven’t voted at all in the last five years,” Thornburgh said. “So that, to us, is a screaming need to engage young people in the voting process.”

Thornburgh said most of the group’s attention will be trained on two hotly contested City Council races: in the 2nd and 7th Districts.

“We’re not at all stepping away from our insistence that Philadelphia elections should be run fairly and honestly,” he said.

The district attorney’s office will have 60 lawyers and several dozen detectives on hand to investigate election complaints.

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