The parties on both sides of a potential lawsuit that claims illegal electioneering took place during a special election in the city’s 197th Pennsylvania House District will need to wait more than six weeks before they will know if the case will be heard in federal court.
During a hearing held Thursday afternoon, after hearing arguments from the many attorneys involved in the case – including those for the candidates who lost the March 21 special election, Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala and Republican candidate Lucinda Little, as well as those for the Democratic City Committee, the Board of City Commissioners, the Department of State, state Rep. Mike Turzai and Democrat Emilio Vazquez, who won the election – Judge Joel H. Slomsky requested all parties involved to submit supplemental materials after they receive a transcript of the day’s proceedings before he would rule on whether the case could be brought to trial.
Lawyers for both Honkala and Little, as well as the Republican City Committee, contend that the pair were deprived of a fair election, with several alleged examples being brought up in court, including poll workers going as far as following voters into voting booths on the day of the election in order to force voters to cast their ballot for Vazquez.
“This is massive fraud on a regular basis, and we have to stop it if we can,” Sam Stretton, an attorney for Honkala, told the judge during the hearing.
For their part, attorneys for Vazquez, the Democratic City Committee, the Board of Commissioners and the Department of State and Turzai all provided arguments on having the case thrown out, with many noting that there were other ways to solve an election issue, like contesting the election results, rather than bringing it to federal court.
However, Stretton argued that they have reviewed all avenues available to them and have determined that the most appropriate action was to file a federal lawsuit hoping to void the results of the election that put Vazquez in office. They also claimed that their rights under the Federal Voting Rights Act and Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Election Codes were violated during the election.
“We did not bring this lightly,” said Stretton. “This is a pattern where everything that could happen wrong, happened wrong.”
While both parties saved specifics of their cases for the full trial, Linda Kerns, an attorney for Little and the Republican City Committee, said that, if the case were brought to trial, they could prove that poll workers gave write-in voters stamps that forced them to vote for Vazquez and had images that could prove at least four people – “eight legs,” as she told the judge – could be seen in one voting booth in the district, which she said indicated that poll workers followed voters into polls in order to manipulate their votes.
At the end of the hearing, Slomsky said that he looked forward to reading through forthcoming supplemental materials and would let all parties involved know if the case could be brought to trial after he had done so.
Slomsky’s decision isn’t expected to be heard for at least six weeks, as obtaining a transcrtipt of Thursday's hearing is expected to take 30 days and the attornies have an additional two weeks to submit additional materials.