Election 2019

Election fraud central? Half of complaints hail from Philly’s 7th District, DA says

Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, who is facing challenger Angel Cruz, alleged widespread tampering in her last election.

Quinones-Sanchez: Jared Piper / PHL Council; Cruz: YouTube / PA House

Updated 4:47 p.m.

More than half of the early Election Day complaints lodged with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office stemmed from polling places in the 7th District, where Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and state Rep. Angel Cruz are locked in a heated battle.

The first half of Tuesday’s primary yielded 26 complaints to the DA’s Election Fraud Task Force. As of 4:45 p.m., about 15 of them came from the political wards — historically fraud-plagued — that make up the slice of North Philly many residents refer to as the barrio.

Overwhelmingly, the complaints all alleged some form of electioneering, the most common grievance in contested races, according to DA spokesperson Cameron Kline.

All complaints are being investigated by the office’s field team, Kline said.

From his home polling place at Stetson Middle School, located near B Street and Allegheny Avenue, Cruz told Billy Penn he had only heard of one kerfuffle in the morning at a polling place at Somerset Villas, an affordable housing complex in the heart of Kensington. He said it involved a dispute over “voter assistance,” when a voter requests the help of another person inside the voting booth, which he said was quickly resolved.

The allegations don’t come as a surprise. Election Day fracas in this district regularly draw 911 calls — and occasionally end in felony fraud charges.

Quiñones-Sánchez is running once again without the support of the local Democratic party leaders in her district, one of whom is Cruz himself.

The three-term lawmaker has alleged widespread “voter assistance” fraud in her last competitive election in 2015, which she won narrowly by a few hundred votes, claiming Cruz . Quiñones-Sánchez publicly asked city prosecutors and elections officials to brace in advance of this year’s contest.

Tea leaves in the trash?

Visits to five polling places throughout the district on Tuesday morning showed a seemingly amicable crowd of champions from both camps. Compared to past elections, Cruz said it was pretty relaxed on the streets.

“Every’s quiet, everybody’s doing it for the money, you push yours, we push ours,” Cruz said. “End of the day, everybody gets paid.”

Outside the polling place in Norris Square Presbyterian Church, both Cruz and Quiñones-Sánchez supporters joked around even as they traded jabs about the other’s candidates to a reporter.

“Angel’s camp is more vocal, they are more aggressive,”said Adriana Rivera, a field worker for Quiñones-Sánchez. “I choose to have a stand back approach. At the end of the day, if I’m yelling in your face, I’m not going to get through to you.”

Jose Hernandez, a worker for Cruz standing a few feet away, said there hadn’t been any complaints at that polling place from voters. As Rivera talked with a reporter, another woman walked by carrying a sign that read “Keep Abortion Legal,” prompting Hernandez to interject.

“We agree on that!” he said.

Depending on the polling place, poll watchers said they thought turnout was either disappointingly low or unusually high.

Who’s the 7th District coming out for?

Both camps said with confidence the voters are there for them.

Back at Stetson, Cruz directed a reporter to a trashcan inside the polling place, where he said 7th District voters showed their true colors. After receiving literature from both campaigns outside the door and before they entered the voting booth, he suggested, they’d throw away the campaign flyer they didn’t need.

“They’re throwing hers out,” he said.

Quiñones-Sánchez could not be reached for comment.

Polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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