Commentary Magazine


No Vote Fraud? Court Intervenes in Philly

We’ve spent most of the year listening to Democrats and liberals lecture the American people about how there is no such thing as vote fraud in the United States. The best response to these disingenuous arguments, which are intended to prevent the adoption of voter ID laws, could have been summed up in one word: Philadelphia. There may be other cities where electoral hijinks are far from unusual, but is there anything to match the long and not very honorable tradition of crooked elections in the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written and adopted? The city’s Democratic machine is a throwback to the Tammany Hall era of American politics that has vanished in even most of our most corrupt urban areas, but which is still going strong in the City of Brotherly Love. While liberals claimed the Pennsylvania Republican Party pushed through a voter ID law in the state legislature in order to steal the election, the real motivation for the law’s passage — and for the fact that most Pennsylvanians approved of it — was in the well known propensity of Democrats to pile up majorities in Philadelphia that were more than a little suspicious.

The latest example of this practice came today as approximately 70 Republican poll watchers were either denied entry to Philadelphia precincts to observe the proceedings or were actually tossed out of voting sites. But the GOP went to court, and has already obtained a judicial order enabling their officials to do their jobs, with the assistance of sheriff’s deputies if necessary.

To anyone who knows anything about Philadelphia politics, this is a familiar story. I have been told by a number of former Republican poll watchers that it is common practice for local Democrats, acting with the approval of election commission officials, to make sure that nobody from the GOP is able to inspect the voting machines or monitor whether those voting are legally entitled to a ballot. Yet, as Fox News reports, it is a little unusual for this many GOP officials to be physically restrained from doing their jobs.

Of course, not all poll watchers are unwelcome. In 2008, members of the New Black Panther Party patrolled a polling site armed with billy clubs–something that, unsurprisingly, the Obama Justice Department refused to classify as an act of voter intimidation. The Black Panthers are reportedly back today in Philadelphia doing the same thing, though this time they may be smart enough to rely on glowering looks rather than clubs to make sure no one votes the wrong way.

The irony here is that after months of claiming that Republicans were seeking to suppress the vote in the name of a bogus desire to prevent fraud, Philadelphia Democrats are back to their old tricks proving why voter ID laws and other measures to prevent criminal tampering with the vote are necessary.

After all, this is the town where the person who runs the City Commission that supervises elections openly campaigned for President Obama in the final days before the vote. Such brazen flouting of the proprieties is par for the course in Philadelphia, where complacency about corruption has always allowed the dominant party to do as it liked with little fear of being held accountable. Those who claim that there is no verified proof of voter fraud are able to do so because the police and the district attorney’s office have rarely been interested in kicking a political hornet’s nest that could embarrass the officials and the network of Democratic ward leaders and activists that keep the city’s political machine running.

It’s not likely that the GOP poll watchers will have much luck getting in to do their jobs, no matter what the courts say. And even if they do, their ejections have enabled precinct leaders enough time to do whatever it was they were hiding from the observers. The fact that the Democrats were so open in their contempt for the law shows just how much importance they place on being able to conduct their affairs without scrutiny in Philadelphia, where a large Democratic turnout is necessary in order to offset Republican gains elsewhere in Pennsylvania. However, the episode is just one more argument not just for voter ID laws, but also for a greater emphasis on preventing voter fraud in the future.