Scams and Fraud Attempt to Keep Philadelphia Voters Away from the Polls

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2008 at 2:11 am

This presidential race could be considered one of the most heated and involved in recent history. With the nomination of Barack Obama for president on the Democratic side and since the selection of Sarah Palin as Republican Vice Presidential nominee, America has seen an outburst of political involvement. For Obama, his strongest assets comes from two demographics: the African American vote and that of the “young people”, that is to say, college students and other eighteen to twenty-somethings like yourself.

Given that, it is fitting that these groups have been the targets of myths and rumors, both nationally and right here in Philadelphia, intended to keep potential voters from the polls.

Earlier this month, fliers were  spread in Philly claiming that anyone with outstanding warrants or unpaid parking tickets could be arrested if they show up at the polls to vote this election. The information is false, and the fliers were distributed in the areas around the campuses of the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, and Philadelphia Community College as well as the predominately African American neighborhoods in that area.

“They were signed anonymously, no one’s figured out who’s behind it, in the new technology age it is easy for people to do things like this anonymously,” said Zach Stalberg, the Chief Executive Officer of the non-profit group, the Committee of Seventy, a non-partisan organization committed to protecting the rights of voters.

The flier encouraged potential voters to stay away from the polls for their own protection. It was written as a letter from someone who claimed to hear that undercover officers would be stationed at polls to catch offenders as they attempted to vote. The writer then claimed to have heard this information in class, suggesting that he or she is a student at one of the surrounding universities. According to Stalberg, although initial blame was targeted towards a disgruntled Republican supporter, Republican’s have rebuffed the idea, saying that it could very well have been from a Democrat to give them a bad name.

“The fliers were put out a while before election day which is a little unusual, a little out of character,” said Stalberg who would have predicted a flier like this coming out only a few days before an election, as opposed to many weeks before. This added time allows groups like the Committee of Seventy to inform voters about its inaccuracies.

To be clear, potential voters need not worry about any outstanding traffic tickets or warrants, but there are some necessary things to know before going to the polls. For new Pennsylvania voters there will be some important information given by mail. “They should get their voter registration card in the mail. They will get a post card saying that they are in the file and where they go to vote. Also it will tell them if they need to have ID. If they’ve already been registered they will not get a new voter card, but they will get the postcard. So they get anytime between Tuesday and Saturday before Election Day. It will tell them whether or not it is handicap accessible,” said Bob Lee, Voter Registration Administrator at the  Philadelphia Board of Elections.

As for the facts on hoaxes like the flier, “They don’t need to know the facts, they just need to take their voter ID and another ID. If someone tries to take away their right to vote, then they should just go to vote anyway, they’re all distractions and nonsense,” said Lee.

If for some reason the voter registration card does not arrive in time, then a valid Pennsylvania drivers license, a student ID, or a passport will suffice. Students should also check with their county to make sure they are registered if they have any questions. For students registering at Arcadia, the number for the Montgomery County Board of Elections is 610-278-3275. The number for the Philadelphia Board of Elections is  215-686-1500 for those registered in Philadelphia. Additional myth busting (for example you will not lose your financial aid by registering at your school) can be found at the Committee of Seventy website,


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