Election 2017

Philly GOP leader claims ‘voter suppression, disenfranchisement, intimidation’

Says Joe DeFelice: It’s ‘everything *they* claimed *we* were going to do.’

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Dan Levy/Billy Penn

Updated at 3:25 pm

Joe DeFelice, the chairman of the Philadelphia Republican City Committee, said numerous Republican poll inspectors have been denied entry or thrown out of polling stations across the city and that in at least one case a poll worker was spotted entering a machine and pushing buttons for a voter.   

“It’s voter suppression, disenfranchisement and intimidation,” DeFelice said. “Everything they claimed we were going to do.”

The Department of Justice has contacted DeFelice about the issue with inspectors, he said. DeFelice also filed a complaint with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and plans to send more this afternoon. Cameron Kline, a spokesperson for the District Attorney, said the Office is aware of three incidents regarding minority poll inspectors being turned away. With one minority inspector per polling place, there would be about 1,600 in the city.  

The Department of Justice also said it was aware of the complaints and declined to comment further.

DeFelice said the problems with Republican inspectors have been happening throughout the city but the biggest issues have been in West Philly. At Lamberton Elementary School in Overbook, he said, the Republican inspector was forced to sit outside in a hallway and wasn’t allowed back into the polling room until a GOP attorney assisted her.  

Adam Lang, a Republican ward leader in Brewerytown, said at one division in his ward a court-appointed Republican minority inspector was turned away this morning. He went to discuss the situation with the other poll workers, and the majority inspector and judge of elections quit in protest, he said.

Because of all this,” Lang said, “the polls didn’t start taking voters until about 15, 20 minutes after 7 a.m.”

Lang said problems with minority inspectors, alleged fraud and poll watchers have happened in previous elections but thought the threats of Republicans coming into to Philadelphia to watch the polls may have set Democratic workers on edge.   

Inspectors are the main workers at polling stations. They can help sign in voters and monitor the polls. In Philadelphia, there are supposed to be majority (Democrat) and minority (Republican) inspectors. Given Philadelphia’s hefty Democratic majority — a 7 to 1 registration advantage — the minority inspectors can sometimes be difficult to find. Greg Paulmier, a Democratic ward leader in particularly blue Northwest Philly, said voting divisions would routinely feature no Republican minority inspectors. That was expected to change this year, with more Republicans stepping up for the job and even more appointed by court last month.  

DeFelice claimed the same things were happening in 2012 and that he warned the District Attorney’s Office about it.

This time, DeFelice said, the treatment of Republican inspectors is worse.

“They knew this was going to happen and they still ignored it,” he said. “The DA was notified and the Court of Common Pleas was notified and here we are.”  

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