I served for sixteen years as the Chairman of the Delaware Co. (PA) Democratic Party and for the years 2010-12 as the Democratic member of the county Board of Elections. The time period involved covered four Presidential elections 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008. I was chairman of a large municipal party in the county for the election of 1992. In each of those years national candidates feared voter suppression efforts and organized out of county lawyers to combat them. The voter suppression efforts didn’t happen and more often than not the outside attorneys got in the way of the local party activists who knew what they were doing.
This year 2012 is different. There are clear signs of some practices that the Republicans, now run by new leaders and fearful of the growing Democratic registration, have sunk to. I should also point out that Democrats won the Presidential elections in the county from 1992 through 2008 with increasing margins.
This year Delaware County found a loophole that enabled it to ignore Gov. Corbett's (a Rep.) edict to extend the deadlines for applying for and returning absentee ballots. This year a surprising number of Republican poll workers in solidly Democratic precincts are calling in sick or otherwise not working so the Democrats are expected to find people to keep the polls open. This has the effect of keeping those Democrats from other get out the vote tasks and it slows down the voting since some people at the tables will be new. And this year in many precincts Republicans recruited friendly Democrats and got them appointed to precinct election boards (in one case even getting a Republican appointed to a position that the election law properly enforced would require the appointee to have been a Democrat.)
We will learn on Nov. 7th whether the Election Board returns to its practice, ended two years ago, of rejecting provisional ballots if the poll worker makes an error which is no fault of the voter thus denying a vote even if the voter is registered. Republican operatives are all over the place spreading the false rumor that the Presidential candidate is not part of the straight ticket trying to discourage Obama supporters from voting straight Democrat thus reducing the vote for the down ballot Democratic candidates.
In 2007 the Republicans tried to interfere with absentee voting in the Radnor township local elections and our party stopped them. In 2011 they tried to change the results of a primary by rejecting 4 legitimate absentee votes and our election commissioner and his pro bono attorney stopped them. This year the new Republican leadership in this county apparently is unafraid of the new Democratic leadership and so begins to go down the slippery slope of voter suppression. One of the strongest and most effective Republican leaders I knew in this county once said “If we can’t win an election we deserve to lose.” The Republicans in Delaware County had better remember that - if the voter suppression is in any way effective this year, and even if it isn’t, we may well see a voter revolt in Delaware County that will say to the Republicans who run this county. You may be able to win our votes but you can’t suppress them.
5 November 2012