Problems at the polls surfaced early Tuesday in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, with Republican election monitors being turned away from polling places and members of the New Black Panther Party appearing at voting sites in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania Republican officials said 75 election monitors from the party were turned away from polling places in heavily Democratic sections of Philadelphia Tuesday, but a judge has ordered them reinstated.
“It certainly raises the question, what are Democrats doing in the polls that they are working so hard to shield folks from monitoring in this election?” state Republican chairman Rob Gleason said in a statement.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has turned his attention to Pennsylvania in the final days of the race, as polls there have tightened in a state that President Obama’s campaign believed it would win fairly easily. Mr. Romney turned out about 30,000 supporters Sunday night at a rally in the Philadelphia suburbs.
The New Black Panther Party was back at the polls Tuesday in Philadelphia, where its members provoked a complaint of voter intimidation in 2008.
A reporter for Philadelphia Magazine found a “uniformed member of the New Black Panther Party” Tuesday morning at the entrance to a polling place in the 1200 block of Fairmount Avenue in Philadelphia. The reporter, Victor Fiorillo, told the man he was going to take his photograph.
“No pictures, please,” he replied. When the reporter asked the black panther if he was there to provide security, the man replied, “No comment.”
Other Black Panthers reportedly showed up at a second polling place in Philadelphia Tuesday morning.
On Election Day in 2008, three members of the New Black Panther Party stood outside a polling place in Philadelphia, with one of them brandishing a nightstick or baton. The Justice Department under President George W. Bush filed a civil complaint again three Black Panthers — Minister King Samir Shabazz, Malik Zulu Shabazz and Jerry Jackson — charging them with violating voter rights by using coercion, threats and intimidation. The Obama administration later dismissed most of the case, even though the Black Panthers had not contested the charges.
Separately, Republicans had to go to court Tuesday to get a Barack Obama mural covered up in the voting room at a north Philadelphia precinct.
The wall at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, which was just inches away from at least one voting machine, includes an image of Mr. Obama, his campaign’s familiar “O” icon, an excerpt from his 2008 victory speech, and that campaign’s “Hope” and “Change” slogans.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the key battleground state were concerned about a mysterious last-minute mailer, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The newspaper wrote that a voter in Harrisburg, site of a close state senate race, reported recently getting a mailer that purported to come from the state’s Department of State saying identification is required to vote.
However, a judge ruled more than a month ago that no identification was required for this election, and a Democratic official told the newspaper that the mailer seemed “very suspicious.”
Matthew Keeler, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, told The Washington Times that the department had sent out the mailer, but that happened more than a month ago before the judge’s ruling. He said the department had not sent out the mailer in recent days.
The developments come just as hundreds of federal observers have fanned out across the country to monitor elections and polling places in 23 states, including closely watched Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Government officials, lawyers from both parties and watchdog groups are looking for irregularities the could tilt the outcome of the most expensive presidential election in history.
The Committee of Seventy, an election watchdog group in Philadelphia, said Tuesday there was much confusion at polling places in Philadelphia and its suburbs about the voter ID law. It said many polling sites around the region were distributing old information indicating that voters must produce ID to vote.