Ronnie Polaneczky: A voting pet peeve that should give us paws

Posted: November 04, 2008

LAST WEEK, Bridget Killer received a notice from Philly's Voter Registration Office advising her how to cast a ballot today.

"This is the first time you are voting in this district" - Ward 52, Division 52 in Wynnefield - the note informed her. "You are required to show identification to the Polling Place Officials."

Now what sort of ID might that be? Paw prints? A rabies-vaccination tag?

Bridget Killer, if you haven't guessed, is a dog - two dogs, actually. They were owned by Rich Gibson, who lives in Wynnefield, where Bridget and Killer, now deceased, once romped the woods.

Bridget was a gray miniature poodle whom Gibson adopted after she'd been abandoned by her owner. Bridget rewarded Gibson's gesture one night by alerting him that a burglar was coming through the front window.

"She saved my life," he says.

Killer, a German Shepherd-Great Dane mix, lost a leg to cancer, but stayed frisky until a cop car hit him, breaking his hip. Killer had to be put down.

"They were wonderful dogs," says Gibson, a semi-retired accountant.

Wonderful, yes. But they didn't possess super powers. So it's beyond Gibson how his two deceased canines transformed into a single, living human who was registered to vote.

"This has me very upset," says Gibson, who called the Daily News when he couldn't get through to the Philadelphia City Commissioners office to make a complaint. "I don't want someone to accuse me of Chicago-style voting after the election."

Now that's a silly fear. I mean, who would need to refer to Chicago-style election malfeasance when so much drama is playing out closer to home?

Just two weeks ago, a Chester man was arrested on felony theft and forgery charges for allegedly submitting 40 phony voter-registration applications while he was employed by ACORN - the Association of Community Organizations For Reform Now.

And in a Harrisburg courtroom, Pennsylvania Republican Party leaders have been arguing for Election Day voting controls, arguing that voter-registration fraud by ACORN in our state will lead to voting fraud today.

Given the importance of Pennsylvania's vote in the outcome of the presidential election - McCain, Obama and their surrogates have stumped so often in Scranton alone, they could be regulars in "The Office" - you can understand why Republicans might be wary if ACORN's efforts here weren't legit.

The organization advocates for the poor, who traditionally support Democratic candidates. It would stand to reason that their pets, too, would lean blue.

If, you know, they were able to vote.

Bob Lee doesn't know how Bridget Killer came to be a registered Philadelphia voter, but he promised to look into it when I was finally able to get through to him at the city's Voter Registration Office.

"We'll investigate and, if necessary, refer it to law enforcement," said Lee, the city's voter-registration administrator.

Bridget, by the way, isn't the first registered animal that Lee has heard of. In the '80s, he recalls, a woman surnamed Katz reported that someone had registered her cat, Jules, under "Jules T. Katz."

Turns out the woman had listed her home phone number under that name. She hadn't wanted her own name in the phone book but didn't want to pay the unlisted-number fee. So she put her number in Jules' name.

"The person who did the phony registration copied the name out of the phone book," says Lee.

That's probably how Bridget Killer came to be registered. Rich Gibson has two phone lines: One is listed under his own name, but his fax number is listed under "Bridget Killer" so that clients don't inadvertently call his fax line when they use the phone directory to find him.

Whoever stole Bridget's "identity" was probably a voter-registration worker trying to meet his quota of newly signed voters, not an imposter intent on voting as Bridget.

So, Committee of Seventy's head Zack Stalberg wasn't too worried about that possibility when I asked his take on this silly situation.

Until I told him the dogs were deceased.

After a pause, he said, "Well, that might be a problem."

After all, this is a city where folks have voted from beyond the grave.

If dead people have managed to vote, maybe other dead creatures can manage it, too. *

E-mail polaner@phillynews.com or call 215-854-2217. For recent columns:

http://go.philly.com/polaneczky

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