GOP officials booted, Obama’s face on wall
(Fox News) – Workers at a Philadelphia polling place, after being ordered by a judge to cover up a mural of President Obama “in its entirety,” slapped up a few pieces of paper that only partially covered his image — while leaving the Obama campaign logo and a quote from the current president in full view for voters.
The judge’s order followed a wave of complaints from Republican officials concerned the giant image of the president could influence voters at the site, a school in Ward 35.
The mural, positioned behind the voting machines, contains the words “change!” and “hope,” along with a quote from the president and painting of him. Poll workers only covered up part of the mural, though, leaving the Obama campaign logo and other parts of the image visible, as well as the Obama quote.
Poll workers claimed only the face had to be covered.
Republicans quickly drew attention to the image Tuesday morning, with one Mitt Romney spokesman tweeting: “Voters in Philly’s Ward 35 are being forced to cast their ballots next to this.”
“It is an absolute disgrace,” said Shannon Royer, deputy secretary for external affairs and elections in Pennsylvania. “Election materials and electioneering inside the polling place are prohibited by state law. This can be interpreted as trying to influence voters inside the polling place. I am told discussions are going on now about covering the mural.”
Pennsylvania election law states “no person within a polling place may electioneer or solicit votes for any political party, political body, or candidate, nor may any unauthorized written or printed materials be posted within the polling place.”
Philadelphia County poll watcher Corbett Brown, 34, who originally alerted the Romney campaign to the mural, told FoxNews.com he found the 15-foot image “inappropriate.”
“There should not be any type of posters or any likeness of either of the candidate in the polling place. So I snapped a picture of it and sent it off to the local legal team who got an injunction from the judge to have it covered, because obviously it could pose a definite bias in voters,” he said.
“This should be a time when they are free from any type of persuasion and that could obviously happen if you have a big mural of the president.”
Michelle Reid, who went to vote at the site and voted for Obama, downplayed the commotion. “I’m assuming the reason why they did that is so it didn’t seem like they were more for Obama, or force people to make choices. I don’t see it as being a big deal,” she said.
School district spokesman Fernando Gallard told FoxNews.com the mural was “inspirational” and one of two that went up in 2009 following a student vote. “Not our call,” he said.
It was one of several controversies surfacing in Pennsylvania’s largest city on Election Day.
A Pennsylvania judge also issued an order Tuesday to reinstate Republican election officials across Philadelphia who allegedly were ejected or refused entry by on-site Democratic voting chief judges.
One Republican official claimed that “just under 70″ Republican election officials were blocked from Philadelphia polling sites Tuesday morning by Democrats on site. One of them, the official claimed, “was shoved out of the polling place.”
“For this many inspectors to be ejected from polling places is rare, even for Philadelphia,” the official told FoxNews.com.
Elsewhere in the city, a representative from the New Black Panther Party was also spotted outside a polling site. The New Black Panthers stirred controversy in 2008 when members appeared outside a polling site, one of them holding a billy club.
The representative seen Tuesday, Jerry Jackson, was charged in the 2008 case along with Minister King Samir Shabazz, but later saw charges dropped by the Department of Justice. He was seen Tuesday wearing the group’s trademark black beret, combat-style uniform and heavy boots. “No comment,” Jackson said when approached by a reporter.
The flap over the election judges, though, was widespread. Republicans claim they are obtaining a series of court orders to seat the so-called election “inspectors,” and sheriff’s deputies will be available to escort them.
Despite the high number of officials who were allegedly booted, the dispute itself is not uncommon for Philadelphia. Fred Voigt, legal counsel for the city commissioners, said these kinds of face-offs happen “with regularity” in the City of Brotherly Love.
“It happens all the time,” Voigt said. He said court-appointed Republican officials typically show up on Election Day and end up squaring off against stand-in officials at the polling sites filling in the open seats. Part of the problem, he said, is that the Republican inspectors are appointed on relatively short notice, leading to a string of confrontations on Election Day.
“There are no cool heads here,” Voigt said.
The on-site election officials are responsible for verifying the identity of voters, and monitoring for signs of fraud or disenfranchisement.