Politics & Policy

Patrick Murphy-linked Absentee Voter Controversy Unfolds

Earlier today, Battle ‘10 reported on the continuing absentee ballot scandal in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, home to the 8th district congressional race. The race is widely seen as a bellwether, with Rep. Patrick Murphy a member of the appropriations committee.

New reports are emerging that could spell trouble for Patrick Murphy’s campaign after it was revealed that his campaign manager controlled a post office box where voters were being instructed to send their absentee ballot applications. The ballot applications were then re-mailed to the county Board of Elections.

A letter from a fictitious agency, the “Pennsylvania Voter Assistance Office,” was sent to an unknown number of residents across the 8th district in southeastern Pennsylvania warning them that their ability to voter could be jeopardized unless they returned an enclosed absentee ballot application in a pre-paid envelope that went to a private post office box in Bristol, Pa.

At issue is whether Rep. Patrick Murphy was directly involved, and whether absentee ballot applications were tampered with or discarded as they were proceeded through the post office box maintained by Tim Persico, his campaign manager.

John Cordisco, the chairman of the Bucks County Democratic Party, told a local newspaper today that the local party had no connection to the alleged fraud, saying, “if there was voter registration fraud, it was being done outside the [local] Democratic organization.”

The local Republican Party is alleging voter fraud after more than 600 ballots were thrown out this week for “defects” like incorrect birthdays and mis-matching signatures. The county district attorney is investigating allegations of fraud from multiple citizens who have signed sworn affidavits.

Last week, there was a sudden 67 percent increase in Democrat absentee ballots, many sent in identical, pre-labeled envelopes, according to Pat Poprik, vice chair of the Bucks County Republican Party. Some were dated as far back as August, indicating that they had been held by a third party:

Six Bucks County residents provided affidavits included in the petition in which they describe encounters with campaign workers who instructed them to complete absentee ballot applications when they did not plan to be out of town for the election or to sign the names of family members to obtain ballots for them.

One woman said that she received the Pennsylvania Voter Assistance Office letters and discarded them. “Nonetheless an absentee ballot was submitted in her name,” the petition says.

At the heart of the controversy is the unusual practice of a party not only soliciting absentee voters, but specifically directing that ballots be returned to the party — rather than directly to the board of elections.

While Democratic operative insist there was no wrongdoing, the mere fact that the ballots were directed to their private post office box before being received by the county raises a cloud of suspicion over the motive for receiving and holding the ballots.

In other words, local Democrats with the Murphy campaign are asking for trust in their word alone that no ballots were discarded or manipulated. Pat Poprik describes the story in greater detail in the Battle ‘10 video below.

Mike Fitzpatrick, Murphy’s challenger and erstwhile congressman, will be speaking with the press this afternoon. Mike Barley, communications director of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, spoke with Fox News this afternoon.

Battle ‘10 will update as the story unfolds.

Correction (10-30-10) — This post has been updated to clarify the second and fourth paragraphs. Voters were being instructed to return absentee ballot applications, not the completed ballots themselves, to a Murphy-controlled post office box. 

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