Delaware County officials on Friday said thousands of voters named in a batch of questionable registration forms will be allowed to cast ballots next week, but that their votes could later be challenged.
The decision to limit those voters to provisional paper ballots — made Friday morning by the bipartisan county Voter Registration Commission — comes after state police raids of two FieldWorks LLC offices in a week, stirring new scrutiny over how the grassroots organizing group registers voters.
At the same time, Delaware County Republicans had questioned both the timeliness and the legitimacy of more than 5,000 registration forms submitted by FieldWorks, alleging that many were either incomplete or possibly fraudulent.
After its hearing Friday, the Delaware County commission ruled that all voters who registered in that batch will be able to vote Nov. 8 — although provisionally, an alternate voting method by paper used when there are questions about eligibility.
The decision means that after the election, candidates in particularly close races can challenge the provisional ballots if questions about a voters’ eligibility remain.
FieldWorks, a national grassroots outfit that works mostly with Democrat, recruits hourly workers to register new voters. In the past week, state police raided its offices in Norwood, Delaware County, and in North Philadelphia, seeking evidence of voter registration fraud.
The state Attorney General’s Office has said little about the probe, although people familiar with the matter say there’s been no suggestion of a plot to cast fraudulent votes at the polls. FieldWorks has denied any wrongdoing and pledged to cooperate.
Friday’s hearing in Media was initially called over questions about if FieldWorks filed voter registration forms past the state’s Oct. 11. deadline. County officials say they received forms from FieldWorks on Oct. 14 and 17.
The Department of State has maintained this week that FieldWorks had submitted those forms to their office in Harrisburg by the deadline — but it took several days for the state to deliver them to the county.
In a letter to the all county election officials dated Oct. 10, according to documents provided by Republicans, the state told officials it would “immediately transmit” all registration forms it received by Oct. 11, and urged county officials to accept any forms with “illegible or missing postmarks” by Oct. 17.
But Delaware County — long a GOP stronghold — questioned if the state truly did receive the forms by Oct. 11, and asked for evidence. At the meeting Friday, a representative from the Department of State, speaking by phone, provided an affidavit assuring the county that they had been received on time.
County election officials also questioned the legitimacy of some forms, alleging that hundreds if not thousands appeared to be duplicates, according to Carmen P. Belefonte, chairman of the county Voter Commission. Many others had false addresses or other issues, Belefonte said after the meeting.
“The breakdown occurred when that applicant handed that over to FieldWorks,” said Frank Catania, solicitor for the meeting. “FieldWorks, in conjunction with the Department of State” is the problem, he said.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Delaware County Republican Party Chairman Andy Reilly said he would have “preferred [the disputed voters] not be on the books, but understood the “tough” decision the commission had to make, he said.
His concern, he said, is that poll watchers on election day will fail to ensure that voters required to file provisional ballots do so, making it virtually impossible to challenge their eligibility after the election.
“I’m leaving with great concerns about a conspiracy,” Reilly said.
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