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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chaos in District 4

Posted By on Thu, Mar 12, 2009 at 8:02 AM

Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Hoagie reported allegations involving vote fraud in the Democratic Party's endorsement vote for city council district 4.  Blogger Matt Hogue alleged that a vote may have been cast in that race by someone merely pretending to be a committeeperson. Hogue surmises that the vote was most likely cast for Patrick Reilly, who won the endorsement, though of course the ballots are cast in secret. 

I've spoken to both Anthony Coghill, the District 4 candidate who first made the fraud allegations, and Jim Burn, the chair of the county Democratic Party. 

Both confirmed that allegations had been made -- though contrary to Hogue's post, no court injunction has been sought. Coghill, who has retained an attorney, says he's currently reviewing his options -- as well as the signatures of other committeefolk who voted in the District 4 endorsement. "One [suspect vote] is enough for me to question all of them," Coghill told me. "Naturally I'm suspicious."

Coghill lost by six votes, and it's possible that the endorsement result would be allowed to stand even if a vote had been cast under false pretenses. As Burn put it, when voter fraud surfaces in regular elections, "They may throw out a couple votes, but they don't toss out the entire result unless there's a tie."

That said, Burn acknolwedges that Coghill "has a pretty strong case" -- at least where one signature is concerned. "And the message to him has been that he has our full support and cooperation if he thinks something happened, or somebody got in under false pretenses." Burn also urged that if Coghill had further evidence of fraud, "he should bring it to us ASAP."

"One vote like this is one too many, Burn said. and the more questionable votes are discovered, Burn says, "the less I like it."

Burn says he is consulting with the party attorneys about what might trigger a revote, and what other action could be taken. In the meantime, he said, Reilly might want to think about joining with Coghill in calling for a revote. "Why would you want to go around for the next couple of months with this asterisk on your forehead?"

I am trying to reach Reilly now, and will update his response when it comes in. 

In the meantime, candidate Natalia Rudiak has sent out a "plague on both your houses" release of their own.

The "hard-working residents of our district have been left out of the conversation of how to build a better Pittsbugh because of old-style political gamesmanship like this," the statement reads. "I am tired of this soap-opera politics, and I think the voters are too."

Rudiak only gardnered a handful of votes in the endorsement, but is running as a reformer anyway. And as this blog has previously contended, her best hope may be that old-guard voters split between Coghill and Reilly. This brouhaha seems almost scripted for that kind of strategy. Whether Coghill or Reilly prevail in this fight, Rudiak seems likely to be a winner as well. 

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