12.11.2010

The 2007 Absentee Ballot Controversy


I got David Oh's permission to post a recent message of his to his campaign followers. As much as I wish David wins in 2011, I wish even more for an honest election. I know that's what David wants, as well, and let's hope we get that.

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Many people wonder about the 2007 absentee ballot controversy.

In 2007, I won on Election Day by 7 votes out of 122,000 votes cast. It was to everyone's knowledge the closest election in the history of Philadelphia. But more shocking was that a grassroots candidate could beat such overwhelming political power with less than half the funds and a volunteer operation.

Under the Pennsylvania election laws, voters who will be away or unable to physically go to their polling place may vote by an absentee ballot.

An absentee ballot is a paper ballot in which the voter checks a box for each candidate for which the voter wishes to cast a vote. The ballot itself does not identify the voter. The ballot is placed in an envelope that has the voters address, ward and division.

Because absentee ballots may easily be abused, the law has strict rules as to how they may be obtained and used. First, the voter must have a valid reason to request an absentee ballot such as being in the military, travel outside Philadelphia or a medical reason. Second, the voter must make a request and the absentee ballot is them mailed to the voter's registered address. The voter mails back the absentee ballot to the Election Commission. There the absentee ballots are separated by polling place, locked in a box and carried by police to the polling place. At the end of the election, the envelopes are inspected and then opened. If there are any discrepancies (e.g., that person died two years ago), the election officials may hold the questioned envelope or a candidate's representative may challenge the absentee ballot. In addition, because of past fraud with absentee ballots in Philadelphia, a federal court issued stricter rules concerning absentee ballots.

After I won on Election Day, I was told that none of the absentee ballots had been distributed to the polling places and none of them had been counted. Many of the envelopes were already opened without any security there. It was not long before we found evidence of fraud. Certain people were given blank absentee ballots and were later able to hand them in, thereby circumventing the safeguards against voter fraud. My volunteers had a short time to work because the results would be certified soon and then we had a short time to file a case to challenge the fraud in state court. We found over 50 cases of voter fraud (e.g., people in nursing homes who did not or could not vote). That is when we learned that the law in Pennsylvania is that unless we could overturn the results of the election, my case would be dismissed before I could do discovery to get the evidence. I would have to post a large bond (e.g., $50,000.00) and if my case was dismissed, I would have to pay the other side's legal bill. Although this was a political campaign matter, City Council authorized $70,000 of taxpayer money be used to pay for the incumbent's private lawyers. For those reasons, I was unable to file a state case. I filed a federal case. The court dismissed the case without ever looking at the evidence because the City Council race was not a federal election. In 2008, it was revealed that the incumbent’s office had been the subject of an FBI investigation. The incumbent wore a wire and recorded conversations with his Chief-of-Staff, Campaign Manager and two top contributors. Three of them were later convicted and sentenced.

Honest government is worth fighting for. I have the will to fight. Without it, we will not see better schools, safer neighborhoods, growing businesses, good jobs, lower taxes and the many others things our city needs. This fight has never really ended for me. My support has grown since 2007. Most people know that I plan to run in 2011. It’s about that time and I’m thankful for your support.


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