As he has done for election after election, District Attorney Seth Williams promised Monday that his team of prosecutors will protect the sanctity of the vote in Philadelphia.
This year he also announced that arrest warrants were issued Monday for four election officials in the 18th Ward, 1st Division on charges of fraudulently adding six votes by tampering with voting machines at North Philadelphia's Hancock Recreation Center, 1401 N. Hancock St., during the 2014 general election. Three of the four also lived outside the division where they worked, another violation of the election law, he said.
Williams said his regular preelection warnings against fraudulent voting were "not just for the news conference every year," but it was to stress the importance of having honest voting.
He promised that if he receives information of other election officials not living in the wards in which they work, and "if it rises to the order" of prosecution, he would take action.
Records from past elections show that some people have continued to vote in their old Philadelphia neighborhoods long after they have moved out of the wards - or even out of the city.
But the four individuals that Williams identified in the news conference allegedly went beyond that level of transgression.
Williams said election judge Sandra Lee, 60; minority inspector Alexia Harding, 22; machine inspector Gregory Thomas, 60; and machine inspector James Collins, 68, at the were charged with a variety of election law violations because they also worked together to add six votes to the total tally.
Harding, Collins and Thomas also did not live in the division where they claimed to be residents, he said.
Williams said the goal of the alleged fraud was to balance the election books. They had six more signatures than they had votes cast. When the polls closed, Williams said, the four election workers added the votes to make the machines match the sign-in book.
He said Collins was holding the voting machine curtain open while Thomas was at the rear of the machine. Collins repeatedly stated "one more time," and Thomas would reset the machine for Collins to cast new votes.
If convicted, penalties for the most serious violations could be up to seven years in prison, Williams said.
In a separate statement, City Commissioner Al Schmidt said his office notified Williams on Nov. 17 of the 18th Ward problem after a woman serving there as a poll watcher reported it to his office.
Schmidt's information showed the six votes were cast within five minutes after polls closed at 8 p.m., records show.
Schmidt said a new board will work Tuesday's election in that division.