1,100 Delco voters to be given provisional ballots
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
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.
The FieldWorks campaign office in Norwood has been under scrutiny for its registration of voters.