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DA Seth Williams says election not 'rigged' but staff on Election Day alert

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams says recent rumors of widespread voter fraud in the city are an "urban myth" drummed up for Tuesday's presidential election.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams says recent rumors of widespread voter fraud in the city are an "urban myth" drummed up for Tuesday's presidential election.

Speaking Wednesday with the city commissioners, who oversee Philadelphia's elections, Williams said voter fraud and cases of voter intimidation are rare occurrences.

"While this election may seem different - I can't recall another time when one of the nominees for president regularly and falsely states that our voting system is rigged - it's not different," Williams said. "We have had difficult campaigns before."

Still, Williams has assigned more than 70 lawyers from his office to an Election Fraud Task Force. He and the commissioners, along with David Thornburgh, CEO of the Committee of Seventh, the good-government and election-watchdog group, urged voters to report any problems at polling places.

"I think we're all expecting a smooth and boring Election Day," Thornburgh said. "We've got the lineup to deliver on that."

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, has repeatedly said at rallies in Pennsylvania and other states that the election is rigged and that victory could be stolen from him through voter fraud in urban areas like Philadelphia. Trump has exhorted his supporters to travel to those areas to act as Election Day observers.

Williams said his office encounters more "run-of-the-mill" Election Day issues, like people showing up at the wrong polling place, campaign volunteers handing out election literature too close to polling places, or neighborhood disputes that flare up during voting.

"I think it's more of an urban myth than anything else," Williams said of the prevalent voter-fraud claims. "The majority of the problems we have in Philadelphia are not people walking around and voting multiple times."

Only three types of people are allowed to be in polling places during Election Day - voters, election board workers, and poll watchers. The state Election Code requires poll watchers to be registered to vote in the county where they serve.

The Pennsylvania Republican Party, in an Oct. 21 federal lawsuit, asked a judge to allow poll watchers from other counties to be allowed to serve anywhere in the state.

That would legalize the practice Trump has been calling for at his rallies.

Al Schmidt, vice chairman of the city commissioners and the three-member board's only Republican, called that "fraught with a number of logistical challenges."

He said election board workers trained to recognize certificates for Philadelphia poll watchers would not know if credentials from other counties are valid on Election Day.

Thornburgh said that a ruling in the state GOP's favor "would be an invitation to chaos and confusion," and that sending out-of-county observers into Philadelphia at the last minute is a "phenomenally bad idea."

U.S. District Judge Gerald Pappert, a Republican and former state attorney general, is expected to rule this week on the state GOP lawsuit.

Williams encouraged voters who encounter problems at polling places to call his office hotlines - 215-686-9641, 215-686-9643, or 215-686-9644.

The commissioners said voters can visit their website, PhiladelphiaVotes.com, to find their polling place locations and view a sample ballot. They can also report problems by calling 215-686-1590.

The Committee of Seventy also has a hotline, 866-687-8683, to field calls from voters with problems.

brennac@phillynews.com

215-854-5973 @ByChrisBrennan

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