Philadelphia leaders assail claims of impending voter fraud

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Elected leaders in Philadelphia took issue Monday with Trump campaign allegations that the presidential election could be compromised by fraud, saying that the claims are meant to disrupt voting and discourage minorities from going to the polls.

“We will not tolerate any sort of foolishness on Election Day, and it’s even insulting to suggest that Philadelphians would,” Democratic City Councilwoman Cindy Bass said.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said the only way he could lose Pennsylvania is if there is “cheating,” and singled out Philadelphia as a city to watch during a campaign stop in the state Oct. 10.

“I hear these horror shows and we have to make sure that this election is not stolen form us and is not taken away from us. And everybody knows what I’m talking about,” he said.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump campaign adviser, attacked the integrity of voting in heavily Democratic Philadelphia in a CNN interview Sunday.

“You want me to (say) that I think the election in Philadelphia and Chicago is going to be fair? I would have to be a moron to say that,” Giuliani said.

Democratic members of Philadelphia’s city council, the state Senate, and U.S. House, and members of two election watchdog groups joined Monday in defending the integrity of elections in Philadelphia.

A Republican election commissioner, Al Schmidt, also attended and criticized election fraud claims against Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth-largest city, with a population of 1.5 million.

“The real threat to the integrity of elections is irresponsible accusations that undermine confidence in the electoral process,” he said.

The speakers did not refer to Trump by name or to Giuliani. Democratic City Council President Darrell Clarke mentioned only “the guy with the funny hat.”

He said the fraud claims are code for rolling back black people’s civil rights.

“This is a clear attempt to stoke the biases of individuals across the country. If you look at the locations where (Trump) has gone in Pennsylvania they are extremely, predominantly white-majority municipalities, to talk about what could happen in places like Philadelphia,” he said.

Trump has called on people to act as “election observers” in “certain areas” of the country to help prevent fraud. But Pennsylvania law has strict rules on who can be poll watchers.

Each party can appoint three watchers in each precinct, and each candidate can appoint two. Watchers must be registered voters in the county to which they are assigned, must receive a credential from the county elections board and must present the credential upon demand.

As to the value of having outsiders come into the city to monitor elections, Schmidt said: “I don’t think there is any added amount of integrity to the process that can be brought by some knucklehead from Altoona coming to Philadelphia on Election Day,” referring to another Pennsylvania city.

David Thornburgh, president of the nonpartisan Committee of Seventy, said his political watchdog group is confident a sound election can occur in Philadelphia, “but, we’re also vigilant, and I think that’s the proper spirit for this.”

In Pittsburgh, Democratic Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. said few cases of fraud have been reported in Pennsylvania’s major cities, including in Pittsburgh. When his office has gotten referrals — the last were in 2003, he said — most have involved voters using incorrect addresses or forgery of absentee ballots.

“I urge the residents of Allegheny County not to let reckless rhetoric deter anyone from voting,” he said.