US Elections: Pennsylvania county probes questionable voter registrations

The Delaware County Voter Registration Commission scheduled a hearing for Friday to determine whether the applications were submitted by the Oct. 11 state deadline to register for next week's election.

By: AP | Published:November 4, 2016 8:44 am
voter registration, us elections, us elections 2016, us elections news, us elections update, world news, indian express, The Washington, DC-based firm submitted 7,000 voter registration applications to the Pennsylvania Department of State, which sent them in batches to Delaware County on Oct. 14 and 17, overwhelming the county election office. (Representational image, File)

With a state police investigation underway, election officials in suburban Philadelphia are questioning the validity of thousands of voter registration applications submitted by a grassroots organizer that works with Democrats, saying they are rife with errors and might not have been turned in on time. The Delaware County Voter Registration Commission scheduled a hearing for Friday to determine whether the applications were submitted by the Oct. 11 state deadline to register for next week’s election.

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“We are trying to get to the bottom of whether these should be on the (voter) rolls or not,” Delaware County Solicitor Michael Maddren said Thursday.

At issue are voter registration applications submitted by FieldWorks LLC, which calls itself a “grassroots organizing company for progressive organizations and Democratic campaigns around the country.”

The Washington, DC-based firm submitted 7,000 voter registration applications to the Pennsylvania Department of State, which sent them in batches to Delaware County on Oct. 14 and 17, overwhelming the county election office.

Maddren asserted the Department of State has no authority under Pennsylvania election law to accept voter registration applications and said state officials haven’t provided evidence they were turned in on time.

Yet state officials ordered the county to place the voters on the rolls, he said.

“We have a real issue on our hands,” Maddren said. “We’ve asked the Department of State to appear and explain themselves” at Friday’s hearing.

Department of State spokeswoman Wanda Murren insisted FieldWorks had submitted the applications by Oct. 11.

“If they were not timely received or postmarked, we would not send them to any county,” she said in a statement.

She didn’t say whether department officials would show up at Friday’s hearing in Delaware County. The voter registration commission there is made up of two Democrats and one Republican.

While the hearing will focus on the applications’ timeliness, FieldWorks also faces questions about its canvassers.

Last week, police got a warrant to search the Delaware County office of FieldWorks, whose clients include the Democratic National Committee, statewide Democratic Party organizations, unions and abortion-rights groups.

The search warrant application, approved by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office and obtained by The Associated Press, noted police were looking for “any templates (physical or electronic) utilized to construct fraudulent voter registration forms” and evidence the same voters appeared on multiple registration forms.

The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported on the search warrant.

An ongoing review by Delaware County election officials has revealed problems with hundreds of FieldWorks applications, from addresses that don’t exist to Social Security numbers or driver’s license numbers that don’t match. Some voters were registered multiple times _ one woman appeared on nine applications.

FieldWorks spokesman Matt Dorf said the company “has the most rigorous quality controls in the industry and zero tolerance for fraud.”

FieldWorks is cooperating with local officials and “will work aggressively with authorities to seek the prosecution of anyone involved in wrongdoing,” he said.

The apparent irregularities had Republicans crying foul.

Republican US Rep. Patrick Meehan, whose district includes Delaware County, wrote to the US Department of Justice on Thursday to demand an investigation of FieldWorks.

Some of the applications “are not only clearly suspect, but they are criminal,” Meehan said in an interview.

Records show Democrats have been more successful than Republicans in registering voters in Delaware County this election cycle. More than 20,000 people have either newly registered to vote as Democrats or changed their party affiliation to Democrat this year, compared with fewer than 12,000 new Republicans, state statistics show.

As a result, Democrats have expanded their registration edge to nearly 18,000 in the county of 413,000 voters.