Philly elections crooked? Officials disagree

    When Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt announced today he was releasing a report on voting irregularities in Philadelphia, I had a feeling it would do nothing to clear up the debate over whether Philadelphia is a nest of rampant voter fraud.

    And it didn’t.

    Schmidt’s report identifies seven types of voter irregularities potentially affecting a few hundred of the 150,000 votes case in the spring primary in Philadelphia.

    “Some are fraud, some are clearly mistakes,” Schmidt said at a city hall news conference. “They are all voting irregularities, and they all impact the outcome of elections.”

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    There was one case of a woman who seemed to have voted in two different polling places, a matter Schmidt said had been referred to the District Attorney’s office. There were three examples of non-U.S. citizens voting.

    Schmidt said it’s hard to say how widespread the problems are without doing an exhaustive manual search of records in the city’s 1,600-plus voting divisons.

    But if the extent of voter problems in the city aren’t clear, the politics of this report are.

    Schmidt is the lone Republican on the three-member city commission, which runs elections in Philadelphia.

    The report comes amidst controversy and litigation over the state’s new law requiring photo ID at polling places. Schmidt stopped short of saying his report proves the law is needed, saying a number of steps are needed to clean up elections.

    But the general tenor of it was that voting here is open to manipulation and fraud, and a video crew employed by the State House Republican caucus was on hand to capture Schmidt’s news conference.

    Democratic Commissioner Stephanie Singer, who once saw Schmidt as an ally in reform, called his report a stunt intended to manipulate the media. She said the kind of fraud voter ID would prevent, where someone impersonates another voter is rare.

    She noted that the Schmidt report cites only a single example, a previously publicized 2007 case involving a voter registered as Joe Cheeseboro. “It’s nothing new, and the fact that they worked so hard and they didn’t come up with anything else makes it pretty darn clear to me that there’s no evidence of voter evidence of voter impersonation in the 2012 primary,” Singer said. Schmidt says every ballot counts, and a council or legislative race could be decided by a just a handful of votes.

    You can read the Schmidt report here, and Singer’s response here.

    More on Voter ID

    There’s been plenty of interesting material emerging on the voter ID controversy. Bob Warner had this Inquirer piece Tuesday about a successful, employed woman who couldn’t get a PennDOT ID until a reporter called about it. And in this piece today, Warner notes that as many as one of four voters over 80 may lack a PennDOT photo ID.

    And on Monday Pete DeCoursey, the bureau cheif of the subscription online service Capitolwire wrote that for years, he’s heard many Republicans believe that tens of thousands of fraudulent votes are cast every presidential elections in Philadelphia, and this November they and everyone else will see if the Democrats’ margin in the city is substantially reduced.

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