March 24, 2017

Amid court challenge, Democrats' write-in candidate Vasquez wins in 197th

Politics Elections
06072016_Vote_Badges_iStock Fredex8/iStock.com

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The highly-controversial special election to fill the 197th Legislative District has a winner — for now.

City Commissioner Al Schmidt tweeted the totals for write-in candidates Friday afternoon.

Emilio Vasquez, the Democrats' promoted candidate after Freddie Ramirez was kicked off the ballot, received 1,970 votes.

Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala, who was also absent from the ballot because paperwork was filed late, only received 282 votes, according to the unofficial returns.

It was clear after Tuesday's election that one of the two write-in candidates had won, as Republican Lucinda Little, the only candidate on the ballot, earned 198 out of the 2,681 total votes cast.

The write-in count took place Friday morning. But before the tally, Honkala said Thursday she was filing a federal lawsuit to have the election results voided, alleging massive fraud and misconduct in the election.

West Chester attorney Samuel C. Stretton, who a filed the lawsuit on Honkala's behalf, wrote a letter to Commissioners Schmidt, Anthony Clark and Lisa M. Deeley notifying them of the campaign's intent to sue. It read, in part:

"We have evidence of at least one if not more ballot boxes at the victory party for Emilio Vasquez. I have been told of evidence of voters being intimidated in the voting booth. There is evidence of election workers such as judges of elections assisting people to vote for the democratic candidate. There is evidence of other voters being misled repeatedly and other acts of misconduct."

State Republicans called on Attorney General Josh Shapiro to investigate the election because of the alleged fraud and illegal tactics, which include accusations that Democrats handed out "write-in" stamps and staffed polling locations with unauthorized poll workers.

Local officials are already looking into the allegations. According to Metro reporter Sam Newhouse, the Philadelphia district attorney's election fraud task force announced Friday afternoon an investigation regarding the special election.

Officials are asking anyone with evidence or eyewitness accounts of fraud at the polls to call 215-686-8724 or email justice@phila.gov.