Philadelphia city commissioners are investigating an unusual series of over-votes in last year’s primary election – 83 voting divisions citywide where the official vote totals were bigger than the recorded number of voters who showed up. In most locations, the discrepancies were small, just a handful of votes. In many instances, minor procedural mistakes could account for the anomalies. But so far, the bulk of the over-voting has not been explained. Until they understand what happened, the commissioners say, they cannot rule out the possibility of deliberate, illegal efforts to run up votes for favored candidates, with the perpetrators losing count as they tried to cover their tracks. In a situation like that, the tiny numbers of over-votes might be red flags for a much larger problem with the underlying vote totals.
“That’s within the realm of possibility, absolutely,” said Stephanie Singer, who became chairwoman of the city commissioners in January. It’s also possible the discrepancies were isolated cases with innocent explanations, she said. “We won’t know until we know,” she said. “When we see things that look very suspicious, then we will go after them.”