CITY COMMISSIONER Al Schmidt said the notion of voter fraud in Philadelphia is so politicized and distorted that some claim it never happens, and others claim there are hundreds of thousands of cases. The truth, Schmidt added, is somewhere in the middle.
Now Schmidt is in the middle of the debate after releasing a report Wednesday that raised as many questions as it answered about voter irregularities.
Schmidt, the lone Republican on the commission, said at a news conference Wednesday that the report was not done to support recent state legislation requiring voters to show identification before casting ballots.
But the state Republican Party chairman and the secretary of state, appointed by Gov. Corbett, quickly issued statements calling the report proof of the need for the voter-ID law.
Schmidt's colleague, Commission Chairwoman Stephanie Singer, called the report a disappointing "stunt" that failed to produce evidence of a problem.
Still, Singer, a Democrat who opposes the voter-ID law, agreed with Schmidt's recommendations to safeguard vote integrity.
Schmidt's staff examined voter records from 14 or 15 of the city's 1,687 polling places, where 179,176 voters cast ballots in the April 24 primary election.
The report, which Schmidt said was not comprehensive, looks at three areas of potentially illegal voting:
Double voting: The report found one Democrat who voted in her new West Philly division and her old West Philly division.
Voter impersonation: The report tracks a South Philly voter named Joseph Cheeseboro and someone voting in his name. The two voters, who each cast a ballot in 2007, are registered at a vacant lot and at a convenience store.
Voting by noncitizens: The report found seven registered voters who cast ballots in the past decade — including one this year — despite not being U.S. citizens.
Schmidt's report also found 23 cases of people being allowed to vote despite not being registered, one division that recorded six more votes than voters and scattered cases of people voting in the wrong political primary or legislative district.
"Some are fraud; some are clearly mistakes," Schmidt said. "But they are all voting irregularities, and they all impact the results of elections equally."
Schmidt denied Singer's claim of a stunt, pointing to statements she made while campaigning for the commission seat.
In those statements, Singer promised aggressive oversight of voting and warned that a small group of people could "perpetrate significant, undetectable election fraud" in the city.