Delco D.A. to review vote-fraud allegations

MEDIA Allegations of voter fraud at a nursing home in Delaware County - where the rivalry between the major parties has intensified - has sparked a review by the district attorney's Special Prosecution Unit.

A GOP poll worker tossed out 61 ballots cast by residents of the Broomall Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in the Nov. 5 election, and a hearing on the challenged ballots will be held in County Court on Tuesday.

The District Attorney's Office said Tuesday that it was looking into the allegations, but did not elaborate.

At issue is whether the residents themselves filled out the ballots, which have not been opened or counted.

John J. Capuzzi, a poll watcher for Marple Township, flagged 67 votes from the nursing home after questioning signatures on the ballot envelopes. Six of the ballots later were approved.

Capuzzi is a Marple Township Republican committeeman and the son of a local judge. In an e-mail statement, he wrote that the nursing home was "the center of suspicious rumors regarding ballot-stuffing by social workers. . . . With no time to alert all the voters, I used my right to challenge in order to protect my neighbors and their votes!" he wrote.

He said he believed the elderly residents had been robbed of their rights.

David Porter, an attorney for the facility, said no fraud occurred.

"With the exception of the handful that required assistance, the residents filled them out, signed them, and they were collected," he said. "There is no evidence of ballot-stuffing or conspiracy."

Capuzzi "made the leap there was some inappropriate conduct," said John Rooney, a lawyer who agreed to take the case pro bono on behalf of the residents.

Rooney said that the voters may have received help to fill out the absentee ballot application, but that they all signed their applications correctly.

The ballots were the subject of "lawful challenges" and were the only absentee votes subject to challenge in the last election, said William Lovejoy, a spokesman for the county.

Calls to Frank Catania, the Elections Board's solicitor, and Lauren T. Hagen, the board's chief clerk, were not returned.

A hearing on the case was held on Veterans Day, when the courthouse and government center were closed to the public. Capuzzi said the law required that the hearing be held within seven days of the election.

None of the elderly residents was told of the hearing, the proceedings were not taped or recorded, and no transcript was available.

"They didn't know their votes were being challenged and were not afforded an opportunity to contest that challenge," Rooney said.

"This is voter suppression at its worst, preying on the most vulnerable people in our society," said David Landau, chairman of the Delaware County Democratic Party.

Landau said records showed that registrations at the nursing home are about evenly split between the two parties.

For the most recent election, registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the county for the first time.

Landau said he did not know the parties of those involved in the appeal, adding, "It is irrelevant."