Arguing poll workers top Election Day squabbles

Posted: November 03, 2010

Voting was shut down briefly at the Mummers Museum in South Philadelphia on Tuesday after an argument flared between elections officials, one of a number of scattered election problems reported around the city.

In addition, a man "dressed like a Black Panther" at 12th Street and Fairmount Avenue caused several people to call an election watchdog group.

Problems at the Mummers Museum, at Second Street and Washington Avenue, started as polls opened Tuesday in the Second Ward, said Christopher Randolph, an independent voter who was elected as minority inspector of that division. An elections judge did not show up and the polls opened 40 minutes late, Randolph said.

When the majority inspector - a Democrat - questioned Randolph's credentials, Randolph went to elections court in City Hall. Common Pleas Court Judge Leon W. Tucker ordered that he be seated, but when Randolph returned to the museum, a shouting match ensued about who was the proper judge. Police were called to sort the mess out.

"Police didn't allow anyone in the room to go near the equipment, or the books," Randolph said.

Angela Trusko, the majority inspector who became the acting elections judge, declined to comment.

At 12th and Fairmount, where two representatives of the New Black Panther Party were accused two years ago of intimidating voters, the Committee of Seventy said it received reports of a man "dressed like a Black Panther." There were no complaints of voter intimidation.

During the 2008 election, the members of the New Black Panther Party stood outside the facility and allegedly hurled racial threats and insults at voters. One member was said to have brandished a nightstick. Federal prosecutors in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division accused the party of violating the federal Voting Rights Act, charges that were later dismissed. However, the organization's president, King Samir Shabazz, was barred from displaying a weapon within 100 feet of any Philadelphia polling location on any election day through 2012.

"That happened two years ago," Judge of Elections Lugina Robinson said, then sighed and added, "and the media is still blowing it out of proportion."

Standing near Robinson was Jerry Jackson, wearing a Black Panther button pinned to his long black trenchcoat, and a red-black-and-green medallion around his neck, as he quietly handled out Democratic ballots to voters.

"Have a nice day," Jackson wished one lady as she exited the polling place.

Robinson looked over at him and continued, "There hasn't been any static and turnout has been great. He's not bothering anybody."

Jackson declined to comment.

"He seems to be just looking at people and that's not against the law," said Sean Scully, deputy policy director at the Committee of Seventy.

There were conflicts including disputes over election signs and sample ballots. At least 11 machines did not work, at least temporarily.

A team of backup lawyers from the firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius L.L.P. visited polling sites to offer on-site help.

"It's not just there," Jon David, a volunteer with Morgan Lewis, said of the Second Ward conflict over credentials. "There have been a number of them around the city. We've seen it in the Northeast, West Philadelphia. That's something we see pretty routinely."

But the problems were bipartisan. A voter at the firehouse at 13th and Shunk Streets in South Philadelphia complained that a campaign worker was improperly handing out Republican literature inside the polling site.


Contact staff writer Liz Gormisky at 215-854-2917 or egormisky@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writers Mark Fazollah and Joseph Tanfani contributed to this article.

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