In the days leading up to the election, media pundits, outcome forecasters and pollsters predicted voters would experience everything from intimidation to harassment to violence when they made their way to the polls. Now we know, little of that actually happened on Election Day, but plenty circulated on the Internet to perpetuate some feeling of phobia the moment you opened your phone or laptop the morning of Nov. 3.

Some on social media made claims of people impersonating poll watchers in Philadelphia, people voting twice, votes being invalidated, people being denied voting, ballot harvesting and all kinds of voter intimidation, discrimination and malfeasance.

In the northeast, signs looking like giant ballots endorsing only the Democratic candidates were taped on the buildings of polling places at several polling locations – including Torresdale Boys Club, Fox Chase School and Benjamin Rush High School. They were reported to the district attorney’s office and taken down. Thousands complained on Twitter, arguing the sign was illegal electioneering because it violated the law stating campaign materials must be at least 10 feet away from a polling place.

Shawn Dillon, a Democratic ward leader in the northeast, claimed responsibility for putting the blown-up ballot signs up at various polling places within his ward and divisions. He said it had been a longstanding practice and only this year, because the stakes are so high, has it been an issue.

“The problem is that the Republican party was upset because they had no representation at the polling places. They’re upset that there was no Trump stuff out there.

“I was trying to help the bottom of the ticket. As far as the presidential race, we all know that everybody’s minds are made up going to the polls,” he said.

But there was a lot of uncertainty throughout the day as to what qualified as voter interference and what was legal.  

Other Philadelphians in charge of their polling places took extra measures to ensure there was no confusion.

As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, the District Attorney’s Election Task Force reported 68 incidents of unlawful electioneering and/or interference at polling sites. Of those, 67 were ‘peacefully resolved,’ according to D.A. Larry Krasner’s spokeswoman Jane Roh.

Leah Blewett, judge of elections for the fifth ward in Old City, said she was grateful no one waited more than 20 minutes in line from the moment polls opened and her operation moved smoothly throughout the day. However, the night before Election Day, Blewett said she chalked out a 10-foot perimeter from the front door so no one could pamphlet, cavass or post anything to get in the way of voters.

“We have a very capable election crew here,” she said.

“We have a very clear perimeter marked out here that says, ‘No electioneering.’”

So why so much mayhem in one section of the city on Election Day and an easy-breezy voting operation in another?

It depends on who’s in charge, says Pat Christmas, policy director at the Committee of Seventy.

“It is incumbent on the judge of elections as the chief election official at a given polling site to determine where that entrance to the polling place is and where that barrier or bubble is where you can’t have these sorts of signs and posters.”

As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, the District Attorney’s Election Task Force reported 68 incidents of unlawful electioneering and/or interference at polling sites. Of those, 67 were “peacefully resolved,” according to D.A. Larry Krasner’s spokeswoman Jane Roh.

While the majority of reported incidents involved concerns of unlawful electioneering or interference at polling sites, Roh would not answer questions as to what happened in the northeast or explain the other instances around town.

She wrote in a press release:

“Most issues involving misunderstandings or miscommunication about voting rules and laws were resolved by Election Task Force prosecutors by phone, and DAO prosecutors and detectives also responded to investigate incidents at polling sites in all six Philadelphia Police divisions. Several incidents will require follow-up by investigators.”

Jenny DeHuff has been a multimedia journalist for the past 15 years in Philadelphia. Her bylines include the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, Playboy Magazine, The Morning Call, and Philly Voice. She’s won multiple awards for investigative journalism. @RuffTuffDH

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