ELEPHANT CORNER: Republicans Push To Get Eyes Inside Philly Polling Stations

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Tuesday night, over 200 people were packed into the second floor of Paddy Whacks at 2nd & South Streets to watch the election returns. Unfortunately, as the night wore on, the Republican crowd increasingly turned to drowning their sorrows.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA won the Electoral College solidly, but his share of the popular vote was much narrower, indicating that we remain a divided nation. The Democrats gained three seats in the Senate, but not a 60% majority needed to pass certain types of legislation. The House of Representatives remains solidly in Republican hands.

All of our local incumbent Republican US Congressman won, including PAT MEEHAN (PA 7th), MIKE FITZPATRICK (PA 8th), JIM GERLACH (PA 6th) and JON RUNYON (NJ 3rd). Republicans also increased the size of their Pennsylvania Delegation to Washington with KEITH ROTHFUS’ victory over Democrat CONGRESSMAN MARK CRITZ for in the 12th Congressional Dist.

WARD LEADER Bill Pettigrew, though recovering from surgery, gives big hug to Chairman Vito Canuso and Gary Adam Feldman at preelection Cannstatter gala.

Election turnout in Philadelphia was higher than expected. We did not see the long lines that we saw in 2008; however, not everything went smoothly. Bold violations of election laws are alive and well in Philadelphia.

Some of our election-day issues made the national press. As in 2008, a New Black Panther Party member stood menacingly outside a polling place in the 14th Ward. The Pennsylvania Republican Party (PAGOP) had to go to court to have a more-than-life-sized mural of President Obama situated behind a polling machine covered.

PAGOP determined one way to reduce voter fraud in the city was to have more Republicans present in polling places. PAGOP, primarily through the work of JOE DeFELICE and ANNIE HAVEY, identified and received credentials for roughly 300 Minority Inspectors for polling places that have not seen Republican election-board workers in 50 years. The Democratic Party had opposed the certifications of these election-board workers in court last week, but Republican attorney LINDA KERNS prevailed in all but a few cases. We had heard rumors Democratic ward leaders had instructed Democratic Judges of Elections to refuse to seat the new Republican Minority Inspectors.

Irrespective of good or bad instruction from Democratic Party officials, PAGOP anticipated a large number of Democratic Judges of Elections would not understand they had to accept the Republican Minority Inspectors. In many cases, they would have to send home the Democrats that had been recruited for and had served in these positions for years. Therefore, PAGOP set up a hotline to deal with these problems. There were numerous incidents where Judges of Election called the police to have the Republican election workers removed. In Philadelphia the police can only enter a polling place to vote or at the request of the Judge of Elections to deal with a “disturbance”.

In one instance reported to us, the police were called, but wisely refused to remove the Republican election worker. However, it took the efforts of two Republican attorneys, the Republican ward leader and a Republican poll watcher to persuade the Judge of Elections to finally seat the Minority Inspector – three hours after the polls opened.

In other cases, attorneys had to obtain court orders to force the election-board workers to be seated. The hotline managed other complaints, including the presence of reportedly over 100 attorneys from the Obama campaign who were in polling places without watchers’ certificates. They had official-looking badges and had letters in hand signed by KEVIN WASHO, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, stating they should be accorded the same treatment as “poll watchers.” The only people allowed in the polling place are voters, election-board workers and poll watchers with watchers’ certificates issued by the Philadelphia City Commissioners.

In the 60th Ward, the Republican leader noticed these attorneys in a polling place at 58th & Walnut Streets. After speaking to the hotline, she returned to the polling place and told the Judge of Elections the letter, in the opinion of her attorneys, was not equivalent to a City Commissioners Watchers Certificate. The Judge subsequently asked the Obama attorneys to sit outside the polling area. As the ward leader was leaving, she was called by an Assistant District Attorney. She told the Judge the ADA informed her that if the Judge of Elections had not removed the Obama attorneys, he would send Detectives who would do so.

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