1,100 Delco vot­ers to be given pro­vi­sional bal­lots

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Alex Rose arose@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @arosedelco on Twit­ter

More than 1,100 vot­ers whose regis­tra­tion ap­pli­ca­tions were re­ceived by the Delaware County Of­fice of Voter Regis­tra­tion later than an Oct. 11 dead­line will be placed on voter rolls, but will have to vote by pro­vi­sional bal­lot.

That was the unan­i­mous rul­ing from the bi­par­ti­san three­mem­ber Delaware County Voter Regis­tra­tion Com­mis­sion fol­low­ing a hear­ing Fri­day to de­ter­mine how best to han­dle a large vol­ume of voter regis­tra­tion ap­pli­ca­tions al­legedly re­ceived by the Department of State in Har­ris­burg ei­ther on or prior to the dead­line but not re­ceived in the county un­til after the dead­line had passed.

The de­ci­sion is re­lated to more than 5,000 ap­pli­ca­tions that Voter Regis­tra­tion Di­rec­tor Mary Jo Headley said she re­ceived from the Department of State after Oct. 11. Each of the ap­pli­ca­tions came in one of six boxes as part of four mail­ings and all were gath­ered by Field­Works LLC on forms that were not pre­vi­ously ap­proved by the state, ac­cord­ing to Headley.

Field­Works, an or­ga­ni­za­tion associated with Democrats and pro­gres­sive causes, is cur­rently un­der crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion for pos­si­ble vi­o­la­tions of the Penn­syl­va­nia Elec­tion Code and tam­per­ing with pub­lic records. A Field­Works of­fice in Nor­wood was raided last week and an­other in Philadel­phia was raided Thurs­day as in­ves­ti­ga­tors searched for “tem­plates … used to con­struct fraud­u­lent voter regis­tra­tion forms” and other ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing.

Field­Works has is­sued a state­ment claim­ing it has a “zero tol­er­ance” pol­icy for fraud and will “work ag­gres­sively with au­thor­i­ties to seek the pros­e­cu­tion of any­one in­volved in wrong­do­ing.”

Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bruce Beemer. a Demo­crat, re­leased a state­ment Fri­day in­di­cat­ing state po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing “a pat­tern of voter regis­tra­tion ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties across the com­mon­wealth” but that it is too early to reach any con­clu­sion. There is no ev­i­dence of voter fraud at this stage, the re­lease stated. Headley told the com­mis­sion that her of­fice worked around the clock to ver­ify the in­for­ma­tion on the Field­Works forms and de­ter­mined only 1,160 were valid. Many oth­ers were du­plica­tive, con­tained some fa­tal de­fect, or the ap­pli­cant could not be ver­i­fied to live at the listed ad­dress, said Headley. Let-

ters were sent out to try to al­low vot­ers to cor­rect those prob­lems, she said, but only the 1,160 have been ver­i­fied so far.

A small num­ber of forms listed mul­ti­ple ad­dresses for the same elec­tor or were com­pleted with ob­vi­ously dif­fer­ent hand­writ­ing, which trig­gered the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion but were not the sub­ject of Fri­day’s hear­ing.

Jes­sica Mathis, chief of the Department of State Divi­sion of Elec­tion Ser­vices, al­legedly sub­mit­ted an af­fi­davit at­test­ing to the time­li­ness of all of the forms the Department for­warded on to the county and en­gaged in a con­fer­ence call dur­ing the hear­ing Fri­day.

Mathis said the Department used to have post­marks in­di­cat­ing it re­ceived the Field­Works ap­pli­ca­tions by the dead­line, but had dis­carded them. Headley said that was a de­par­ture from past prac­tices for the Department.

Mathis also tes­ti­fied that the department would not have for­warded the ap­pli­ca­tions if they were dated Oct. 12 or later, but would still for­ward any­thing that came in to­day if it was dated Oct. 11 or ear­lier. She said there was no in­for­ma­tion other than her af­fi­davit that could be used to ver­ify when the Field­Works ap­pli­ca­tions ar­rived at her of­fice, but that ap­peared to be con­tra­dicted by in­for­ma­tion sup­plied by Mike Power, an at­tor­ney for the Delaware County Demo­cratic Com­mit­tee.

Power of­fered the com­mis­sion an email that

pur­ported to show when the Field­Works ap­pli­ca­tions were de­liv­ered to the Department of State by the United Par­cel Ser­vice, though Com­mis­sion Chair­man Car­men Belle­fonte said it was im­pos­si­ble to de­ter­mine from that email if those track­ing num­bers were for the Delaware County forms or some other ap­pli­ca­tions. Some of the dates were well beyond the dead­line, he noted.

Power ar­gued there was no ev­i­dence to dis­pute Mathis’s claim that all of the ap­pli­ca­tions for­warded by her of­fice were timely and said the com­mis­sion should there­fore ap­prove all of the Field­Works ap­pli­ca­tions it re­ceived. The sug­ges­tion was met with some de­ri­sion by Belle­fonte, who pointed to the many du­plica­tive and in­com­plete ap­pli­ca­tions al­ready rejected by

Headley’s of­fice.

Elec­tion Board Solic­i­tor Fran­cis Cata­nia said there was some is­sue with the 1,160 ap­pli­ca­tions that had been ver­i­fied, how­ever, and that he said should be seen as good faith ef­forts by vot­ers to prop­erly reg­is­ter ahead of the dead­line. Those vot­ers should not be pun­ished by Field­Works’ ap­par­ent fail­ure to timely file, he said, and sug­gested the work­around that those in­di­vid­u­als be al­lowed to vote pro­vi­sion­ally.

Lawrence Tabas, an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing the Delaware County Repub­li­can Party, said the law re­quires the com­mis­sion to hold any late reg­is­trants off the books un­til the next elec­tion, adding there is no rea­son the 1,160 or any of the ap­prox­i­mately 5,000 Field­Works ap­pli­cants could not vote pro­vi­sion­ally. Tabas

said his client did not ob­ject to the com­pro­mise sce­nario of plac­ing the 1,160 vot­ers on the rolls with the caveat of a pro­vi­sional bal­lot, how­ever, since they would be asked to vote pro­vi­sion­ally if they were not on the rolls any­way. Pro­vi­sional bal­lots are counted on the Fri­day after the elec­tion when the of­fi­cial tally is taken.

Delco Repub­li­can Party Chair­man Andy Reilly later said he was con­cerned that over­worked poll work­ers might ac­ci­den­tally al­low some of those vot­ers to use ma­chines, at which point their votes could not be chal­lenged for va­lid­ity.

Reilly also ques­tioned whether the Department of State had prior com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Field­Works, point­ing to an Oct. 10 mem­o­ran­dum from Mathias di­rect­ing county elec­tion of­fi­cials across the state to ac­cept

any ap­pli­ca­tions with a miss­ing or da­m­aged post­mark up to Oct. 17. Tabas said the Department has no au­thor­ity to ei­ther col­lect and dis­perse ap­pli­ca­tions or di­rect how and when county elec­tion boards should ac­cept such ap­pli­ca­tions.

Delaware County Demo­cratic Party Chair­man David Lan­dau said dur­ing a call with re­porters later in the day that the Repub­li­cans had suc­cess­fully sup­pressed at least some vot­ers who might turn around and walk out if they are told they need to vote pro­vi­sion­ally, but the 1,160 will at least be on the rolls go­ing for­ward.

Reilly dis­puted any claims of voter sup­pres­sion, ar­gu­ing that his party is ac­tu­ally work­ing to pre­serve the in­tegrity of the vote by en­sur­ing only those prop­erly reg­is­tered can use ma­chines Tues­day.

RICK KAUFFMAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

The Field­Works cam­paign of­fice in Nor­wood has been un­der scru­tiny for its regis­tra­tion of vot­ers.

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