Here in Philadelphia, our dearly departed rise from the dead to cast ballots in every election - that is, if they can get past the Black Panthers at the polling places.

That's our rep with some right-wing conspiracy theorists outside of Philly.

And, let's face it: Many of us joke about our city's history of corruption. (See the first paragraph of this column.) Why wouldn't an outsider think it's true?

The truth, however, is usually more complicated.

Consider the suit filed last week against the City Commissioners by the Alexandria, Va.-based American Civil Rights Union. The conservative group is miffed that our city's election officials have not responded to a request in January for information about how the names of people who have died, are ineligible to vote, or have moved are struck from the city's list of voters.

The group also sent requests for information to Allegheny, Delaware, Montgomery, Luzerne, and Northampton Counties.

The lawsuit may quickly fizzle. The Pennsylvania Department of State, which maintains a database of voters, is now compiling the requested data.

That's as it should be. Anyone should be able to obtain public information from the government.

It's clear the ACRU request was motivated by suspicions that the city's voter rolls are inflated.

"In short, your county has nearly more registrants than eligible citizens living in the county and may not be conducting reasonable list maintenance to ensure noncitizens are not improperly registering to vote," the suit states.

But it's the Pennsylvania Election Code that controls how voter rolls are purged.

Voters are labeled "inactive" if they haven't cast a ballot for five years and afterward don't respond to a notice mailed by election officials. They can be removed from the rolls after that only if they don't vote in the next two general elections in which federal offices are on the ballot. So it can take seven to eight years to purge a voter.

Al Schmidt, vice chairman of the three-member City Commissioners and the only Republican on the panel, said voter rolls are also trimmed using a monthly list from the state of people who have died. Also, when a Philadelphia voter relocates to another county and registers to vote there, the new county of residence will inform the commissioners.

Having inactive voters on the rolls is not proof of voter fraud.

City Commissioners Chairman Anthony Clark, a Democrat, took heat for not voting in five elections before 2015, but he broke no law.

"It is implausible to think inactive voters have anything to do with voter fraud," Schmidt said. "The fact that they're inactive means they're not voting."

The ACRU is a prime proponent of controversial "Voter ID" laws.

J. Christian Adams, the ACRU policy board member who filed the lawsuit, accused Voter ID opponents in 2014 of trying to change "the outcome of elections" by "denying the possibility of vote fraud."

Then-Gov. Tom Corbett, the Republican who signed into law Pennsylvania's Voter ID law, opted to give up the fight in 2014 when a state Commonwealth Court judge overturned it. That judge said lawyers defending the law for Corbett offered nothing but "a vague concern about voter fraud."

Adams, working for the U.S. Department of Justice during President George W. Bush's administration, filed a voter-intimidation lawsuit against two members of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense for standing outside a Philadelphia polling place in 2008.

That case, a cause célèbre in right-wing political circles, involved two loudmouths holding one nightstick that prompted zero complaints of voter intimidation.

Adams resigned from the Justice Department after the case was dismissed during President Obama's first term. He found plenty of right-wing audiences for his outrage.

Voter ID was dismissed by critics as "a solution in search of a problem." The Black Panther incident was political theater, absent any substance. Even a dead voter could spot a pattern developing here.

215-854-5973@ByChrisBrennan