Philly Voter Rolls Filled with Hundreds of Ineligible Names

Published Tue, Sep 7 2010 12:58 PM

Nicole S. Marrone, a former attorney at the Department of Justice, has a great post up at Pajamas Media on the problems with the Philadelphia voter rolls. Here is just an example of what she found when looking at the rolls following the 2004 election.

The city of Philadelphia is known for many things: The Liberty Bell, cheesesteaks, water ice, and Santa Claus-booing Eagles fans. But if research that I conducted in 2006 is still accurate today, Philadelphia should also be known for all-inclusive voting — that is, voting regardless of whether one has a pulse or is otherwise eligible to cast a vote.

Every two years, states are required to provide data to the Election Assistance Commission regarding their compliance with Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (the section of that statute which ensures voter lists are up-to-date and free of ineligible voters). In 2005, their data collection for Pennsylvania revealed that 102.5% of the citizen voting age population was registered to vote on Election Day 2004.

One might reasonably wonder how it was possible that more people were registered to vote than existed. My 2006 analysis of the city of Philadelphia's voter list provided some possible answers to that question.

In the spring of 2006, I reviewed portions of the city of Philadelphia's 2005 voting list. I found that underaged voters, deceased voters, and incarcerated felons were registered to vote and had remained on the voting list, despite the fact that none of them were eligible to vote in Pennsylvania (or, in most cases, anywhere else).

Here is why this is important and is an issue for a free and open elections, and what DOJ is doing to ensure that the voting rolls are the best they can be and as free from fraud as possible.:

Leaving names on the official voter list of ineligible voters invites fraud. While I did not witness this, a reliable person "on the ground" during the 2004 presidential election told me that he saw the signatures in the poll books of these same 12 incarcerated felons — indicating that they actually voted on Election Day.

My sampling of just a small portion of one city's data from the 2005 official voting list uncovered 408 definite or highly likely ineligible voters. And that number does not account for all of the voters who may have been ineligible due to a change in residence. The true number of ineligible voters could easily be in the thousands — just from this small sample.

Assume that there were just 400 or so ineligible voters from all of Philadelphia, and not just from a small sample. Philadelphia is just one of 67 counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If every county had 400 or more ineligible voters on their lists for any given election, and those voters actually voted, roughly 26,800 votes would be ineligible. Multiply that by 50 states and one would be hard-pressed to successfully argue that a problem doesn't exist when relevant portions of the National Voter Registration Act, such as Section 8, are not enforced — as the DOJ's Julie Fernandes instructed.

This issue was also the topic of a Washington Times editorial pointing out DOJ's inaction to enforce the law in Philadelphia or elsewhere.

The dead voters may be forced back into their graves. The biggest scandal emerging from the infamous New Black Panther voter- intimidation case didn't even involve the Black Panthers. Instead, it came when whistleblowing attorney J. Christian Adams told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that top Justice Department official Julie Fernandes had openly refused to enforce laws that require states to remove ineligible names - dead people, felons, people who have moved - from voter rolls.  

"We have no interest in enforcing this provision of the law," Ms. Fernandes reportedly told a roomful of employees of the department's Voting Section in November. "It has nothing to do with increasing turnout, and we are just not going to do it."  

It will be interesting to see how this will play out in the coming weeks as Election Day rolls around.

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