Calls on District Attorney and City Commissioners to uphold election integrity

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Earlier today, Cheri Honkala got word of voter intimidation and irregularities taking place during the special election in the 197th district.

"It took me over an hour to vote myself this morning." said Honkala, a Green Party member who is running as a write-in candidate for Pennsylvania State Representative in the 197th district's special election. "First, the machines weren't turned on. I've personally seen a Democratic Ward Leader repeatedly going in and out of the polling place, touching the machines, and God knows what else."

With less than three hours into the day, the following issues have been reported:

• 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.

The Honkala campaign did also have a legal problem. It was discovered early on that due to a miscommunication, Honkala's election day materials did not contain appropriate disclosures.

"The second we learned there was a problem, we took steps to correct it," said campaign treasurer Hillary Kane. "We pulled the literature and asked our poll workers to write in the needed language. While this was unfortunate, it by no means rises to the level of voter intimidation and misleading behavior that we've seen from the Democratic Party."

Despite these pro-active steps, the Democrats still secured a court order and got the Sheriff's office to physically remove signs and pamphlets from Honkala's poll workers. This took place, even after the materials were corrected — the Sheriff's office initially stated that the hand written attribution was not acceptable. When pushed, they then said that the full disclaimer had to include the Treasurer's name when by law it does not. Even after this was clarified, Sheriff deputies were still confiscating Honkala's materials, including taking of whole bags which included other items not in question.

"I am specifically calling on District Attorney Seth Williams and all three City Commissioners, to get down here and put a stop to this abuse," said Honkala. "People should be able to go to the polls and cast their votes however they see fit, without threats and intimidation. This community has been the target of these kinds of abuses before and this time we won't stand for it."

The special election was instigated after Rep. Leslie Acosta (D) resigned amid a felony conviction for money laundering. Honkala alleges Acosta intentionally triggered a special election by waiting to resign until after winning re-election in November, all with the hopes that she could install a hand-picked favorite as a replacement.

"This whole district has been plagued by crony corruption for far too long," said Liz Ortiz, community resident and Honkala supporter. "It's time we take it back for the people."

Cheri Honkala is running a serious write-in campaign for state representative in the 197th district. She announced her race on January 31, and has been tirelessly seeking the people's vote ever since, gaining key a endorsement from Our Revolution.

"At the end of the day, the voters have three choices," said Edgardo Gonzalez, Honkala's campaign chairman. "Do they want a Republican who is with the Party of Trump, do they want another machine Democrat after the last two resigned in scandal, or do they want a woman who has been putting herself out there for the people for over 30 years? I know who I'm voting for today and it's Cheri Honkala."

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

The campaign will continue to update the press as it hears reports of election fraud.

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.