On that Philly voter ID report

Published by Tim McNulty on .

This post by Philadelphia radio reporter (and former Daily News columnist) Dave Davies at WHYY is a week old now but worth Al Schmidtclipping for those of us on the other side of the state following Voter ID matters. State Republicans from Tom Corbett to GOP chief Rob Gleason have been citing a report on Philly voting inaccuracies by city commissioner Al Schmidt to bolster their case for the new law, but Davies argues the problems are few, and largely due to clerical errors. And most wouldn't be solved by voters showing IDs on election day.

In part:

Schmidt's report does identify some cases of apparently illegal conduct: one woman who appears to have voted twice in two different voting divisions; one case of voter impersonation (but not in the 2012 primary, which the report focused on); 23 cases of un-registered people convincing poll workers to let them sign "voter slips" in violation of procedure and cast machine votes; one polling place in the Northeast where six more votes were tallied on machines than voters who signed in (curiously, the extra votes were all cast in the Republican primary in a predominantly Democratic division); and seven non-US citizens voting over the last 10 years.

These are small numbers, compared to about 170,000 votes cast in the primary.

But Gleason and others say this may be just the tip of the iceberg. Most of these findings came from a small sample of voting divisions. Expand it across all 1,687 divisions, they say, and you may have a mountain of fraud.

The problem with that argument is that the sample in the report wasn't randomly selected. The 14 divisions examined were those flagged in a comparison between state and city records (more on that in a moment).

So while it's possible there are great pools of slime in the rest of the voting divisions, it may also be that we've seen the worst here, and it's far from hundreds of cases of fraud.

In one category of irregularity, the use of "voter slips" to cast machine ballots, the report looked at all of them citywide, because they're easy to examine. So the 23 unregistered voters who slipped through that crack represent the citywide total – again, 23 out of roughly 170,000 votes cast.

Photo: Al Schmidt. Emma Lee/for NewsWorks


Tues: All eyes on Portman in Pa

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Karen Langley and Clara Ritger caught up with Rob Portman after the possible VP candidate made the Romney camp's pitch to Pa voters yesterday in Lancaster:

Later, in a telephone interview, Mr. Portman said he believes Mr. Romney has a "very good" chance of winning Ohio and Pennsylvania.

"I think that there are a lot of people who have not yet decided, who are in the middle, who tend to make the difference in our states, who are looking for something new," he said.

"They do want to know enough about Governor Romney's background and his experience and, most importantly, his policies to be able to visualize a new and better way, and I think that's the challenge of the campaign."

Asked if the years remaining in his Senate term would make him hesitate to accept an offer to share the ticket, Mr. Portman said he expects to remain in his job.

"I really view myself as staying in the Senate," Mr. Portman said. "I'm just assuming I'm going to stay where I am, stay in the Senate, continue to represent Ohio. I got elected in 2010 for a six-year term. I look at it as an opportunity to serve in an important job. I didn't run to run for something else."

The Republican's campaign will announce the VP choice to supporters via smartphone app. A story at HuffPost wonders whether an announcement will be delayed by the Olympic appearances by Ann Romney's horse, which is due to compete Thursday and Friday.

The Obama campaign too has an app -- it's for grassroots supporters to find campaign events near them, volunteer and find out about the Democrat's policies.


Prelim begins for Orie Melvin

Published by Tim McNulty on .

From Paula Reed Ward at the main site:

The former chief law clerk of then-Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin said she participated in campaign activities with her boss such as speechwriting and traveling, but it was when she was asked to fabricate vouchers to get street money she had had enough.

"There was absolutely no way I was going to duplicate, fabricate or make up vouchers to steal money out of a campaign," testified Lisa Sasinoski. "I resolved at that point to get myself out of the situation."

She testified today for more than 2 1/2 hours in a preliminary hearing for suspended State Supreme Court Justice Melvin, charged with using her judicial staff to campaign in 2003 and 2009 for Pennsylvania's highest court.

Ms. Sasinoski referred back to an incident just before the 2003 general election when she claimed that Janine Orie, the judge's sister and office manager, asked her to copy receipts and vouchers of her travels with the judge, to make it appear the judge's other sister, Sen. Jane Orie, accompanied them in their campaign travels. In that way, they could get a check from the campaign treasury, write it out to Jane Orie for reimbursement, and she would then in turn provide the campaign cash to be used as street money. She explained that street money was used to encourage and help people get to the polls.

Now an employee of Justice Max Baer, Ms. Sasinoski testified that at the end of the 2003 election season, she told Ms. Orie Melvin that she could no longer participate in political activity. Two days later, she said Janine Orie demanded her court and building ID.

The first witness of the day was Molly Creenan, another of Ms. Orie Melvin's law clerks. Ms. Creenan joined her staff in 1998 and left in April of this year. She testified for about three hours, telling Magisterial District Judge James J. Hanley Jr. in Pittsburgh municipal court that she witnessed extensive political activity in the office by most of the staff, including Janine Orie. Ms. Creenan testified that she filled out political questionnaires from various interest groups but refused a demand in 2003 to work the polls. Because of that refusal, she was instead required to report to the court office to work on election day, even though it was a scheduled holiday, she said.

Ms. Creenan said she was so bothered by the political activity in 2003 that she approached Judge Orie Melvin when she learned years later the woman planned to run in the 2009 election.

Ms. Creenan said she congratulated her on the decision to run, but told her she had concerns about previous political activity and raised the recent conviction of state House Rep. Jeff Habay and the then-ongoing Bonusgate public corruption investigation.

"I said if there's ever an investigation into our office, I would tell the truth," she said. "I didn't really get a response."

She then said that neither Janine nor Joan spoke to her for a long time after that.

Throughout the hearing, Ms. Orie Melvin sat quietly with her hands folded across her lap, occasionally receiving handwritten notes from her daughter, Casey Melvin, who was sitting behind her.

At one point during the testimony, Ms. Sasinoski scolded Casey Melvin from the stand for laughing when the law clerk explained that once during the 2003 election campaign, her daughter had gone missing for a two- to three-hour period while Ms. Sasinoski was stuck in Philadelphia with Ms. Orie Melvin.

"It's not funny, Casey, it really happened," Ms. Sasinoski said.

Ms. Orie Melvin is charged with nine public corruption counts. The hearing is expected to last at least two days.


Monday: More on Voter ID

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Good morning.

The DCCC is targeting 23 GOP members of Congress (including Tim Murphy) in new web ads targeting their support of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Dems need to flip 25 seats to regain control of the House. Here's the anti-Murphy ad.

US Sen. and possible VP candidate Rob Portman, R-Ohio, leads up a Romney rally at noon today in Lancaster.

Politico does a write-thru on swing state voter ID laws (besides Pa, Virginia, Wisconsin and New Hampshire have strict new laws in place too), noting they could affect some 5 million voters.

PoliticsPa has a breakdown of the congressional districts with the highest percentages of voters without ID. But those without-ID numbers are squirrelly: names listed without PennDOT ID include people like former Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode and Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffrey, both of whom actually have ID, the Inquirer reports. Philly Daily News columnist John Baer calls the Pa measure "a total freakin' mess."


Remembering Mark Schneider

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Mark Schneider

Shocking news today about the biking death of developer/civic leader Mark Schneider of Point Breeze, who chaired Pittsburgh's sports authority through the building of PNC Park/Heinz Field/Convention Center and guided two major redevelopment projects (Washington's Landing/Summerset at Frick Park) that helped redefine Pittsburgh on a national stage.

Mark, who was 55, was one of the good guys. The last time I saw him he was giving his time to another worthy effort, the still-unfunded World War II monument on the North Shore, and talking about his plans for bringing back an industrial zone in gritty Manchester. Here's Annie Seibert's obituary, with comment from former Mayor Tom Murphy, county exec Rich Fitzgerald, Steelers CEO Art Rooney II, former SEA director Steve Leeper and others.

UPDATE 2:15pm, From Mayor Luke Ravenstahl:

"I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Mark Schneider. My deepest condolences go out to his family. Mark was a true visionary who saw opportunity and vitality in urban areas that were once undesirable. His vision and leadership led to the creation of some of Pittsburgh's most amazing and successful developments. Mark was dedicated to his family, generous with his time and committed to his community. He will be missed."