Bucks election board to hear GOP allegations of absentee-voter fraud by Democrats

Posted: October 28, 2010

The Bucks County Board of Elections will hold a hearing Friday morning to consider Republican-backed allegations of absentee-voter fraud against Democrats.

A petition seeking the hearing asserts that a Democratic program intimidated some voters into needlessly, and sometimes fraudulently, applying for absentee ballots. The Democrats then flooded the county elections office with the applications, hoping that many fraudulent forms would go undetected, the petition says.

Democrats have accused Republicans of demonizing a legal get-out-the-vote campaign in an effort to disenfranchise voters. They say that of more than 600 absentee-ballot applications rejected as defective by the Republican-controlled elections board, more than 80 percent bear the names of Democrats.

Republicans are asking that all absentee ballots be preserved unopened until an investigation is conducted. District Attorney David Heckler has opened an investigation, but says his focus for now is preserving the evidence until after the election.

Board of Elections Director Deena Dean said her office was inundated last week with more than 100 calls from voters saying they were confused about a Democratic mailing they had received. The mailing, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee, told recipients that their "participation in the forthcoming election may be placed in jeopardy" if they did not return an enclosed application for an absentee ballot.

Included was a postage-paid envelope, addressed to a "Voter Assistance Office" at a post office box maintained by the Democrats in Bristol.

"We had to point out that it was not from us," Dean said. "They wanted to know why their voter privileges were in jeopardy, and we reassured them that everything was fine by looking up their names in our registration records."

Through Wednesday, 12,487 absentee-ballot applications had been received, Dean said, compared with 11,242 in 2006, the last gubernatorial election cycle.

Of those, about 600 had been flagged as defective through Friday, a number Dean said could grow by "possibly a couple hundred."

The county does not keep a list of rejected absentee applications, but Dean said there were clearly more this year than in past years.

The Republican-backed petition accuses Democratic campaign workers of fraudulent activity. Some voters contend they were asked to sign applications on behalf of relatives. One woman said someone applied for a ballot in her name, even though she had tossed out her application when it arrived in the mail.

In a counterpetition, state Democrats say the elections board, "under pressure from Republican operatives, is systematically denying Democratic voters the right to vote by absentee ballot."

The Democrats' petition includes the names of 24 voters allegedly denied absentee ballots despite submitting legitimate applications.

Contact staff writer Larry King

at 215-345-0446 or lking@phillynews.com.

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