Some election workers express defiance over ruling

Posted: August 15, 2012

They're still defiant.

A handful of polling-place officials around the region say the decision Wednesday upholding Pennsylvania's voter-identification law has either increased their anxieties about enforcing the new law or steeled their resolve to defy it.

"I'm kind of appalled at this point," said Christopher L. Broach, a Democrat in the tiny Delaware County borough of Colwyn who has received national attention for his vow not to demand photo IDs from voters Nov. 6. He called the Commonwealth Court ruling "a sad day."

Gov. Corbett and Republicans in the state legislature are "robbing the vote," said Broach. "They are throwing it down to people like me to have to do their dirty work."

An echo could be heard in Lower Merion Township. "No, I will not enforce it," said Joe Breidenstein, 55, a Democratic judge of elections in Ardmore. "I think it is clearly a political move, and I don't think the law should be manipulated for political purposes."

Adrian Seltzer, 61, a Democratic majority inspector for a polling place in nearby Wynnewood, predicted "a fiasco at the polls." Seltzer said she thought about defying the law, but decided instead to work furiously as a volunteer to help voters obtain proper ID.

She said the thought of fines and jail drove her decision. Breidenstein, for his part, said he realized the possible consequences if he did not uphold the law.

"Are they going to start putting people in jail? Wow, wow," he said. "Do that and you won't have elections. People won't work. It will shut down."

Farther upstate, Democrat Joe Magnano, 52, of Stroudsburg, Monroe County, said he would resign his post as voting-machine inspector unless the law were struck down on appeal.

"I can't be hypocritical and fulfill my job when it is being undermined," Magnano said Wednesday. "I can't in good conscience pretend everything is fine when it is not."

Magnano said he has worked the polls alongside his wife, Barbara, the precinct's judge of elections, for about five years. Barbara Magnano said she was on the fence about whether to enforce a law she felt was wrong or to quit her election post. "I haven't quite decided," she said, if "I am even going to be there on Election Day."

In Pittsburgh, activists from the liberal group MoveOn.org have taken petitions to Allegheny County election officials, urging them not to enforce the ID law Nov. 6. And in Philadelphia, a Democratic city councilman all but dared state officials to arrest city poll workers. "Let them come enforce it," Bill Green tweeted Wednesday. "If we believe it violates the Constitution, we have the right to keep to our oath."

J. Matthew Wolfe, a Republican ward leader in West Philadelphia, said that the law was good policy and that its enforcement would hinge on good training. He said he is hoping all the heightened awareness of the law means that extra care will be taken and that election workers will understand how to enforce it at the polls.

Said Wolfe, a lawyer, "Every illegal vote that is cast cancels a legitimate vote."


Contact Mari A. Schaefer

at 610-892-9149 or mschaefer@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @MariSchaefer.

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