March 21, 2017
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Long-time activist hopeful of historic write-in win; calls on district attorney candidates to monitor Friday’s vote count

PHILADELPHIA, Pa.—The votes are in, but not yet tallied in the March 21 special election to fill a vacant seat for the 197th state house district. Based on an unofficial report on the Election Board’s website, a clear winner had not emerged after a day mired by reports of voter intimidation and irregularities.

Despite a long list of candidates, the front runners appeared to be Republican Lucinda Little—the only candidate who appeared on the ballot—and a slew of write-in candidates including Green Party member Cheri Honkala and Democrat Emilio Vazquez.

Little garnered 7 percent of the vote, while more than 2,400 votes were cast as write-ins. By law, a hand count of write-in votes will not take place until Friday, March 24.

Unfortunately, numerous incidents of election fraud and voter intimidation were reported throughout the day by voters, poll workers and others. Because of that, Honkala will hold a press conference at 4 p.m. tomorrow in front of the district attorney’s office at 3 South Penn Square, calling on all candidates for district attorney (seven Democrats and one Republican) to stand with her to uphold election integrity and monitor the vote count on Friday.

Prior to Election Day, it was unclear to the Honkala campaign whether the District Attorney, who runs the elections, or the City Commissioners would ultimately keep watch over the ballots until Friday.

A list of incidents provided in a previously released statement include:

  • Misleading literature from the Democratic candidate, Emilio Vazquez, implying that Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala, who has lived in District for years, is an “outsider” and a “Republican.”
  • At a Beauty School, 2751 Germantown Avenue, Honkala poll workers were told they could not put up Honkala signs because this is a “Democratic district.”
  • At multiple polling places, Democratic poll workers and committee people are located inside the polling place, handing out the Vazquez stamp and literature; not 10 feet from the entrance to the polling location as required by law.
  • At the Wyoming Branch Library, Democrats have set up a table outside the polling place, with sign-in sheets and stickers, and giving voters the impression that this party-run table is the place to check in to vote, rather than the actual check-in station inside the polling place.
  • At the Pan American Clinic, a Democratic Committeeman is handing out partisan materials inside the doorway to the polling place, not 10 feet from the entrance as required by law. When questioned by a Honkala supporter, he responded that he’s an “elected” person (either a judge of election or committeeperson). If a judge of election, he should be inside but running the election in a non-partisan manner, not distributing literature. If he is fulfilling a partisan role, he needs to be outside the polling place. This location is also owned by Freddie Ramirez, the first Democratic candidate who was kicked off the ballot for not living in the District.
  • Similarly, at the Beauty School, a voter was electioneered by an election worker who came out of the polling place to do so.
  • At the Esperanza Health Center, a Honkala voter was point blank asked by the election workers who she was voting for.
  • At multiple polling places, Democratic poll workers are repeatedly going in and out of the polling place. In one instance, Democratic Ward Leader Carlos Matos was seen going in and handling the voting machines.
  • At Bethune School, the Republican poll workers are walking in and out, escorting voters inside.
  • At Bethune School, a election worker was seen inside the polling place with the write-in stamp of another candidate, likely that of Emilio Vazquez the main Democratic write-in candidate. The supervisor did intervene.
  • At Munoz Marin School, a table was set up right next to the voting machine, covered with literature for Democratic candidate Emilio Vazquez, with voters being told that the table has “what they need to vote.”
  • At the polling place at 17th & Lehigh, located in an unspecified office, the Democratic committeepeople are telling people to vote for Democrat Emilio Vazquez inside the polling place as they check in to vote.

A complete list will be released Wednesday.

“We ran a great campaign and had amazing support from all over the community,” said Honkala, reflecting on her short but intense nine-week campaign. “Tonight’s results show that when the people want something, they will figure out how to make it happen. A write-in win is possible.”

Cheri Honkala ran a serious write-in campaign for state representative in the 197th district that raised over $100,000 in individual contributions, involved the purchase and distribution of 750 stamps, conducted a video training in English and Spanish that was circulated on the Internet, and built this webpage (http://www.cheri197.com/writein) to educate voters.

The long-time poor people’s advocate announced her entry into the race on January 31, and had been tirelessly seeking the people’s vote, gaining a key endorsement from the national progressive group started by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Our Revolution.

Honkala also garnered endorsements and support from local union leaders, community leaders, and local pastors, as well as actress Rosario Dawson, filmmaker Josh Fox, musician Tom Morello, and journalist Naomi Klein. She was interviewed on numerous online news programs including “The Jimmy Dore Show” and “Redacted Tonight.”

Honkala was denied a ballot position due to a technical error and was forced to mount a write-in campaign. The Democratic Party, which lost this seat due to corruption, also mounted a write-in campaign with Emilio Vazquez, a little known employee of the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The Democrats’ first choice, Freddie Ramirez, was kicked off the ballot after a court concluded he did not live in the district.

“We look forward to a full and impartial vote counting on Friday,” said Kristin Combs, chair of the Green Party of Pennsylvania. “We trust the police to monitor the ballots on which these write-ins were cast.”

See also: “As the 197th Turns: Decision Day Draws Near For Special Election Chock Full of Residency Hearings, Felonies, Write-In Candidates, Threats, Vandalism and PA Supreme Court Rulings,” March 15, 2017.


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