Philadelphia Republicans Claim Voter Intimidation, Voter Fraud

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 4:54 pm, November 8, 2016
  • Philadelphia Republicans claim their election monitors have been turned away
  • Philly GOP also says voters are being pushed toward Democratic candidates
  • Pennsylvania Democrats unsuccessfully sought court order preventing Trump supporters from aggressive election activities
  • Despite Dems’ initial concerns, little evidence of Trump-inspired voter intimidation in Philly
  • Philadelphia election officials say all has gone smoothly so far today, no worrisome reports 


About 40 court-appointed Republican election inspectors were turned away from Philadelphia polling stations on Election Day, the party’s city committee said this morning.

Joe DeFelice, chair of the Republican City Committee, called this voter intimidation, as the monitors turned away might feel intimidated from voting and other voters who heard that GOP monitors had been turned away might feel similarly intimidated. “They’re voters, and they’re being turned away from their polling place,” DeFelice said.

Philadelphia Republicans also claimed on Twitter that voters were being pushed toward Democratic candidates.

Just weeks ago, Trump specifically mentioned potential Election Day shenanigans in the City of Brotherly Love, telling attendees at a rally, “Voter fraud is all too common, and then they criticize us for saying that, but take a look at Philadelphia, what’s been going on.”

The Philadelphia City Commissioners, the bi-partisan board that handles elections and voter registration, told Heat Street that, as of early afternoon, their three offices had received no significant reports of voter fraud or voter intimidation on Election Day. The board has two Democratic members and one Republican.

“We haven’t received any calls in regard to voter intimidation or court-appointed minority [party] inspectors not being seated,” said Tim Dowling, deputy commissioner to Democrat Lisa Deely.

Fred Voigt, deputy commissioner to Democrat Anthony Clark, said that despite heightened concerns, he’d also seen nothing out of the ordinary, though “there are always problems, but that’s endemic when you have 1,686 voting stations and over a million voters.”

Voigt said that it was likely money, not politics, that caused Republican minority election inspectors to be turned away this morning.

“There are no black Republicans,” Voigt said, “so if you want to have a minority inspector in a black area, you’re going to have to find one. How do you find one? You go advertise for one in the paper.”

Each polling site has a five-person board monitoring, with each member earning about $100 a day, Voigt said. The people who fill these paid positions are usually pulled from the community, so unfamiliar faces claiming to be inspectors may draw suspicion.

“So of course [the Republicans] have been turned away, and that got resolved in court this morning,” Voigt said. “That’s what it’s all about: Who gets paid. It’s not about ideology,” he added.

DeFelice, the chair of the Philadelphia Republican City Committee, disputed that. “It hasn’t been resolved,” he said.

Bob Brady, the union-allied chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Party, says any minority inspectors who showed up with their court order got in, and if anyone claims otherwise, “they’re lying.”

In Philadelphia, concerns about the Election Day have not been limited to Republicans.

Last week, a Politico story detailed plans of Trump supporters, particularly aimed against minority voters. The Right Stuff, an alt-right website reportedly working with neo-Nazis, planned to “set up hidden cameras at polling places in Philadelphia and hand out liquor and marijuana in the city’s ‘ghetto’ on Election Day to induce residents to stay at home,” Politico reported. And Roger Stone, a Trump-allied political operative, said he was organizing exit polling at 2,000 precincts in Philadelphia.

The Democratic Party of Pennsylvania sought a court order to bar aggressive election activities at polling sites, but a judge denied their request yesterday. Specifically, Pennsylvania Democrats said in their complaint that Trump supporters — and, in particular, Stone’s Stop the Steal PAC — were planning voter-intimidation and voter-suppression efforts.

Brandon Cwalina, deputy press secretary for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said he had not received any reports so far of voter intimidation by Trump supporters. “The only thing we’ve seen are a lot of really enthusiastic voters,” he said.

Enon Tabernacle Baptist, a church with 15,000 North Philadelphia parishioners, also said they had seen no reports of voter intimidation as of mid-afternoon. For more than a decade, they’ve sent church members polls, where they “are prepared to both encourage voters and discourage agitators,” the pastor recently said. But today, “everything is well,” says Francis Jones, a church spokesperson.

Brady, the Philadelphia Democratic Party chair, said he was never worried about Trump supporters. “There’s nobody intimidating Philadelphia,” he said. “Come on. We’ve been doing this a long time.”