3950 D St., also known as Community Education Center's Hoffman Hall and Coleman Hall, is the site of a pair of prisoner re-entry facilities. These are, Hall Monitor has been told, places low-level offenders pass through on their way out; not, in other words, the kinds of places where people stick around.
Inmates have, however, stuck around on the voting rolls of Ward 7, in which 3950 D St. is located — nearly 200 of them, according to state data reviewed by Hall Monitor. (Lest anyone get hysterical, prisoners retain the right to vote in many circumstances, and these prisoners happen not to have voted very much anyway, according to records.) In some cases, these names — of people who may or may not have ever lived (outside of being detained) in the area, and who are much less likely to be at their purported D Street address — have remained on the books for more than a decade. That means they can still, theoretically, vote there.
That's but one example of how Philadelphia's voting rolls are, to say the least, a little messy. And that messiness has a long, mucky history. In 1999, realtor Julie Welker — who had run for City Council first against former mayor (and then 5th District councilman) John Street, then against current 5th District councilman and City Council President Darrell Clarke — filed a lawsuit over her race against the latter, alleging, essentially, voter fraud. Her team found votes coming from addresses that were vacant and from people who had long since moved away. She eventually dropped the suit, and the question of whether she had been on to something — and what it might mean — was never answered.
What it might have meant is that the city's voting rolls are outdated and vulnerable to exploitation. This week, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on a probe within the City Commissioners — the office that oversees Philadelphia elections — of "over-voting" at polling places, including within Ward 7, describing vote totals that didn't match the number of signatures on the city's voter rolls and signatures that didn't match those on registration forms.
The mere fact of this "probe" is welcome — under former City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione, the City Commission was notoriously reluctant to do exactly what her successors Stephanie Singer and Al Schmidt appear to be doing: dusting off the books, getting out the pencils and checking the last election's results against the books in which they were recorded. But ultimately, it's their own office and the legacy left by Tartaglione that will need to be probed. No small job.