Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said that despite widespread concerns about voter intimidation and voter fraud, today’s election in Philadelphia has been normal and without major incident.
“We have no founded complaints of intimidation, no founded complaints of voter fraud,” he said. “We have no walking apocalypse of zombies voting all over town. We don’t have it.”
Of course, the zombie quip is a reference to claims of voter fraud involving people who have died still “casting votes.” Besides the fact that there are no zombies, Williams said during an afternoon press conference that his office’s Election Fraud Task Force had received 69 calls as of 2 p.m., which is on par with the number of calls the same task force has received the last three presidential elections. Among the calls received by the task force, there were:
- 13 complaints of electioneering
- Five calls about illegal assistance
- 15 calls about voter assistance
- 10 calls of machine problems
The task force deployed teams of investigators to look into more than 30 complaints today, but the dispositions of those complaints haven’t yet been released. Most of the calls received by the task force were associated with people going to the wrong polling place.
Williams’ assertions though that today is a normal Election Day doesn’t jibe with what Philadelphia GOP executive director Joe DeFelice has said about “voter suppression, disenfranchisement and intimidation” at polling places across Philadelphia. DeFelice told Billy Penn that Republican poll inspectors were denied entry or thrown out of polling stations across the city. However, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wellbrook said no one had called the task force’s hotline to complain about the issue since 8 a.m. this morning.
The district attorney also said he was aware that Twitter was abuzz about the activities of James O’Keefe, a conservative activist who tweeted that he was “in Philadelphia tailing a pastor’s bus that’s bussing people to the polls.”
Williams emphasized that taking people to the polls isn’t illegal. When asked if following around a van of voters could be considered voter intimidation, the district attorney said: “No one has called us to complain that they were harassed by the camera crew that’s following this van, and the people that are a part of that camera crew have not called to complain that they saw anyone in the van doing anything illegal.”
“There is no expectation of privacy when you are in public,” Williams added. “If in fact you are attempting to vote and you feel as though people are following you or saying things in some way that you feel in intimidated by them, we want people to call us.”
If you encounter any problems voting, or someone is preventing you from voting, call the Election Fraud Task Force at 215-686-9641, 215-686-9643 or 215-686-9644.
Despite the relative calm reported by Williams, nonpartisan watchdog group Committee of Seventy released midday results of its voter experience poll showing that some voters reported chaotic situations at polling places, specifically first thing this morning. About 500 people responded to the survey. Here’s what Seventy is reporting:
- No detailed reports of voter intimidation or harassment.
- Only three respondents reported being denied a chance to vote, while another two were told to file provisional ballots for what they felt were insufficient reasons.
- Multiple reports of divisions in the city where both poll workers and machines were unready to handle voters when polls opened at 7 a.m. Multiple voters reported long lines they felt were in part due to malfunctioning machines and/or ill-trained, overwhelmed election workers.
- Numerous reports of early-morning chaos at city polling places that handle voters from multiple divisions. Voters reported a lack of signage and direction as to where to line up for the right division, and ignorance or misinformation from election workers as to which division certain addresses belonged.
- The general picture is of an election being conducted with outdated technology and some poorly prepared workers, who often do not give voters the simple answers that would calm their anxieties.
- Nearly one in four voters (22 percent) reported waiting a half hour or more to vote. A 2014 report from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration 2014 Federal Commission recommended that no voter should be asked to wait for more than 30 minutes.
Committee of Seventy Executive Director David Thornburgh said it’s hard to tell whether or not that amount of complaints is “normal.” He said the reason the group is conducting the survey, which it hasn’t before conducted in a presidential election year, is in order to create a benchmark for a normal amount of Election Day complaints. However, he did say he’s worried about long wait times.
“The fact that 10 percent of people waited more than an hour, that to me seems disturbing,” he said. “Elections are like a pop-up event, except you know exactly when it’s going to take place. You would think you’d have everything figured out, pressure-tested, maybe have some ability to add staff.”