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November 03, 2016

Sen. Casey urges Justice Department to protect Philadelphians' right to vote

Government Elections
07282016_Bob_Casey1_JS.jpg Joe Santoliquito/For PhillyVoice

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., at the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) urged the Justice Department, in a letter sent Thursday, to protect all Americans' right to vote in the upcoming presidential election following widespread reports of planned vote intimidation and suppression initiatives. 

Casey's letter, addressed to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, referenced reports claiming a "neo-Nazi publication" had plans to send poll watchers to Philadelphia on Tuesday to set up hidden cameras at city polling places. 

In fact, a recent report has highlighted a new-Nazi leader's plans to distribute "liquor and marijuana in the city’s 'ghetto' on Election Day to induce residents to stay home."

Casey also noted that "the nominee" — Casey doesn't name Donald Trump directly in the letter — has warned of possible voter fraud in Philadelphia and has asked supporters to "go around and watch other polling places." 

"In the absence of credible and substantial evidence to support the claim that elections in Philadelphia are subject to widespread fraud, these calls to action are little more than thinly veiled attempts to suppress and delegitimize the votes of predominantly minority citizens influenced with innuendo that recalls dark times in our country's civil rights struggle," Casey wrote. "These calls are more than wrong and irresponsible; if executed, they could be illegal." 

Casey reminded the Justice Department that poll watchers in Philadelphia are required to have secured poll watcher certificates from the Office of Philadelphia City Commissioners and poll watchers must be registered voters in Philadelphia. If not, he wrote, any who attempt to travel into Philadelphia and act as poll watchers could be in violation of laws that are intended to protect voters from intimidation. 

(In a scathing rebuke, a federal judge on Thursday denied the Pennsylvania Republican Party's effort to allow poll watchers from anywhere in the state monitor precincts on Election Day.)

"Regardless of party or affiliation," Casey urged the Justice Department to work with local officials to support jurisdictions in the city that could be targeted by voter suppression efforts. 

On Thursday morning, a representative from Casey's office said there has not yet been any response from the Justice Department regarding the senator's concerns. 

Locally, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has announced that his office will have an Election Day Task Force on hand during November 8, in order to watch for voter fraud and voter intimidation.