Who you gonna call for issues at the polling place?
During the primary elections more than 60 assistant district attorneys and several dozen detectives will be ready to respond to any voting irregularities or polling place issues. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams reminded all voters that if they experience any difficulty casting their ballot they can call the Election Fraud Task at (215) 686-9641, 9643 or 9644.
“We don’t anticipate any problems on Election Day, but if there are we are ready to respond,” Williams said.
Caroline Cruz, who has been an assistant district attorney for the past eight years, said Latino voters who could have issues at the polling place will have access to at least one Spanish speaking detective and one district attorney that can provide assistance.
“Some of the most common irregularities are that members of the election board will campaign for a certain candidate, which is illegal, they should be non-partisan,” Cruz said. “Another issue is they sometimes fail to inform voters of their right for simultaneous translation for non-English speaker voters.”
She also said voters have the right to be at the voting machine for at least 3 minutes, if there is a line, and even more time if there is none.
Cruz highlighted that voters should not be required to present an ID to vote, unless is the first time they vote at a particular polling place. “If the volunteer is misinformed and denying a resident his right to vote we want to know. You should definitely call our hotline,” she said.
The Committee of Seventy also launched the Election Ambassador Corps, a program that will place 250 city high school students at polling places to help answer voters’ questions and learn something about the election process.
“Anyone who sees a possible election law violation needs to contact the District Attorney’s Office immediately,” said David Thornburgh, Committee of Seventy CEO. “But for questions about the election or voting process, voters can visit seventy.org or call us at 1-855-SEVENTY. Trained volunteers will be available to answer calls throughout Election Day.”
Typically, on Election Day, the task force responds to allegations of illegal voting, improper use of stamps for write in elections, refusal of election boards to recognize poll watcher certificates, illegal electioneering inside the polling place and writing on the voting machines.
Prior to primary elections, Williams issued warrants for the arrest of four Philadelphia election officials
District Attorney Seth Williams issued arrest warrants for four election officials from Philadelphia’s 18th Ward, 1st Division. In addition to committing election fraud, three of the four arrested lived in a different division than the one they were working in, which is a violation of the Election Code.
The infractions were made during the 2014 General Election. Back in February a detective from the District Attorney’s Office Special Investigations Division interviewed a certified poll watcher who saw the division’s election board collaborate to correct a discrepancy between the number of votes cast and the number of voters who signed in to vote.
The accused election officials include Sandra Lee, who served as the division’s Judge of Elections; Alexia Harding, who served as the division’s Minority Inspector; James Collins and Gregory Thomas, who both served as the division’s Machine Inspectors.
According to the investigation, once the polling place (located at 1401 N. Hancock St.) had closed, the four election officials worked together to add an additional six votes to one of the machines to make the votes cast and sign-in books match.
The complainant stated that Collins was holding the voting machine curtain open while Thomas was at the rear of the machine. Collins then registered numerous votes on the machine after the polls closed.
After each vote he stated, “one more time” and Thomas would reset the machine for Collins to register new votes. The complainant stated that there were no voters inside the polling place, and the doors were locked while the votes were cast. An examination of the voting cartridge verified the complainant’s testimony.
Evidence shows that the print-out tally indicates the number of votes cast for each candidate/ballot question on the ballot was certified, via signature, by each of the election board members. There were also no blank ballots, which means that the additional votes cast after the polls closed by the poll workers were for candidates and/or ballot questions on the ballot.
Additionally, a review of Harding’s, Collins’ and Thomas’ home addresses, as recorded by the Philadelphia Commissioner’s Office, shows that they did not live nor were they registered to vote in the 18th Ward, 1st Division, which is illegal. However, the Election Day payroll indicates that they still collected $125 in compensation.
The District Attorney said a new election board will be in place at today’s primary election.