From Incompetence To Jim Crow: Elections In Philadelphia Are Out Of Control

REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

Michael Thielen Executive Director, Republican National Lawyers Association
Font Size:

While most people were focused on election results on Tuesday night, lawyers in Philadelphia were in court dealing with yet another election problem in Philadelphia.  At best in Philadelphia, it is hard to say where the incompetence ends and the vote fraud begins.  At worse, Democrats in Philadelphia are using Jim-Crow-style intimidation tactics on anyone who tries to vote for the Green or Republican candidates, or anyone but the Democrats’ chosen candidates.

One thing is for sure: the problems in Philadelphia are extremely serious and can no longer be ignored.

In this article I will focus only on problems uncovered in the last year.  I will take these problems not in chronological order but in the order that they would happen in a normal election.  They are not one-off problems but problems which have been reported and rumored for years.

Pennsylvania’s voter registration system, through its Department of Motor Vehicles, encouraged vote fraud and preyed on non-citizens who likely had limited English proficiency, enabling vote fraud.  Across the state, DMV offices established a person was a non-citizen as a condition of receiving a license. Yet after this, non-citizens were asked if they wanted to register to vote.  Non-citizens registering to vote is plainly illegal.  But non-citizens may have assumed that, since in the process of legally obtaining their driver licenses the DMV established they are non-citizens, the DMV asking if they wanted to register to vote meant it was okay for non-citizens to register and vote.  Or, a non-English-proficient non-citizen may not have understood the voter registration question, which should never have been asked in the first place.

This scandal was flagged by a Philadelphia City Commissioner recently, with hundreds of non-citizens registered to vote uncovered in the city alone.  Some allege this scandal is much broader, as a few weeks after the scandal broke, Pennsylvania’s Democrat Secretary of State abruptly resigned with no explanation and Democrats tried to disrupt a hearing on the matter at the State Capitol.  One thing no one contests is that non-citizens’ illegal votes benefit Democrats.

While non-citizens may have been tricked into thinking it was legal to vote, Democrat supporters in Philadelphia have actually preyed on the elderly, who could not or did not want to vote, let alone register to vote.  At the St. Francis Center for Rehabilitation and Health Care, seniors with dementia, who were unwilling to register or vote, or were otherwise not aware registered and voted absentee in a Democrat Primary.  The signatures were in the same hand and in some cases just an “x.”  The latter was ironic, as one of the children has shown how their memory-impaired mother still has a perfect signature when prompted.  These elderly victims likely unknowingly swayed a close local Democrat election.

The elderly were tragically exploited for fraud, but at least they were not physically attacked.  Minority inspectors (Philadelphia legalese for court-appointed Republican election officials) were physically removed, had their papers ripped up, intimidated, and not even allowed to vote in their home precincts in the last election.  This sort of intimidation has been going on since at least the 2004 election but has largely escaped attention until this spring.

Fortunately this spring, much like the Justice Department in the 1960s fighting for minority rights in the South, the Democrat Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro was outraged by events in a Philadelphia special election this spring.  Shapiro uncovered, in a heavily minority district, Democrat election officials who used Jim-Crow-era tactics such as replacing votes of Republicans with their favored Democrat candidate, refusing to allow Green Party supporters to vote, aggressively questioning Green Party voters seeking assistance, and more.   Shapiro stated: “One should not chalk these actions up to typical partisanship or typical electioneering.  These were crimes.”

Of course, this was just one of the many precincts where problems like this were reported in the special election by Green Party members, independents, and Republicans.  Quite frankly, there are similar reports in Philadelphia in almost every potentially close election and even non-close one.  The special election was a virtually guaranteed victory for the Democrat candidate, yet the Democrats still engaged in these intimidation tactics.

And even when they do not intentionally try to intimidate voters or poll watchers or exploit vulnerable populations like the elderly or non-citizens, the Democrats who run elections in Philadelphia can hurt candidates they oppose through other means.  The Democrat Party opposed Republican judicial candidate Christine Fizzano Cannon, whose name was listed incorrectly as just Christine Fizzano on about half of the ballots in Philadelphia.  Maybe this was just an example of sheer incompetence, but the pattern of questionable regulation, taking advantage of the weakest in our society, fraud, and intimidation is too much to say it is all just incompetence.

If you are a Green Party member, Independent, or Republican in Philadelphia, your vote in Philadelphia is in doubt.  Serious reform, both cultural and legal, is needed to protect the right to vote of every citizen in Philadelphia, regardless of political beliefs.