Once again, the voting process in Philadelphia is a joke told over and over again on national newscasts. Every four years, the fairness of voting in the city is questioned, and every four years, the suspicions and allegations swirl without investigation.
Such was the case in 2008, when Acorn was caught red-handed filling voter rolls with names out of the phone book and false signatures, while Black Panther members intimidated voters with billy clubs. It is the case again this year with questionable turnout, vote returns, voter rolls, poll-place shenanigans and the Black Panthers‘ encore.
There can be little doubt that these same antics occur every year, but only get scrutiny with the spotlight of a presidential election. Every time it is exposed, there are outcries, followed by a call for hearings and investigations, and nothing happens.
This year was particularly egregious. In October came the first hint that something was fishy when the city’s voting rolls were discovered to be nine months pregnant with inactive voters. Federal law dictates that voters be removed from the rolls after they miss two consecutive presidential elections. In Philly, we are more forgiving. Two of three residents in the city are eligible to vote. Taking into consideration children and teenagers who can’t vote, the one million-plus registered voters is impossible. There are undoubtedly dead people on the rolls. The important question is: Did they vote?
Bloated rolls provide opportunity for the unscrupulous to pad the vote for a particular candidate and the turnout. Fortunately there are poll watchers legally certified from both parties that assure that can’t happen. However, in 75 Philadelphia polling sites, the Republican poll watcher was at first either barred from entering or thrown out. It took three hours before a Common Pleas Court judge issued an emergency order that they must be allowed in. A lot can happen in those three hours.
In Philadelphia, voter turnout in 20 of the wards was 97 percent and greater. That is 97 percent of the bloated voter rolls that probably include dead people. Zombies are in these days, and in Philadelphia, they vote.
In 59 Philadelphia precincts, Mitt Romney received no votes. Zero. If you total up just those precincts, Obama won with over 19,000 votes to nothing for Romney.
Across the state, voting for President Obama was down almost 10 percent from 2008 and the Republican vote was up. In Montgomery County, Obama was down nine percent and Romney was up four percent from John McCain. In Bucks County, Obama was down 11 percent and Romney was up four percent. In Chester County, Obama was down 10 percent and Romney was up 10 percent. In every county in the Commonwealth, Obama was down, some counties as much as 26 percent. In Philadelphia, he was off just three percent. But that was more than offset by the fact that Romney’s vote was down an incredible 19 percent from 2008, by far the highest percentage in the state.
Finally, there is now a report that at least 27,000 registered voters were told they were not in the poll books. More than 27,000 cast provisional ballots to be counted after election officials check the rolls. There is no telling how many disgruntled voters just walked away. It would be helpful to break down the party affiliation of those who were told they weren’t in the books. In 2008, Philadelphia recorded 12,733 provisional ballots, so the number has more than doubled.
To recap, there are inflated voting rolls, a near 100 percent turnout in many precincts, Republican officials thrown out in precincts, Romney getting no votes in precincts, registered voters told they aren’t on the books, and the city recording vote and turnout totals way out of line with the rest of the state and even neighboring counties.
That’s a whole lot of smoke for no fire. Shouldn’t there at least be an investigation? We had endless hearings, debates and protests about a voter ID law because voters might have been disenfranchised and because there was no clear-cut evidence of voter fraud to support the law. Now with the real possibility of such evidence and the real possibility that tens of thousands were disenfranchised, no one seems interested.
There are complaints, but no action. The Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Sam Smith, from Punxsutawney, called the results “questionable,” but plans no hearings on the matter. The Secretary of the State also passed on an investigation. And forget any action in the city where the Democratic Machine has been entrenched for more than 60 years and doesn’t want to change anything that might diminish its power.
Everyone knows there is something wrong but no one wants to do anything about it. Welcome to Philadelphia. The only solace for the residents of the city is the knowledge that if you die between now and 2016, you’ll still be eligible to vote and someone will probably do it for you. It is a joke that is getting old.