By Bowen Xiao
Multiple witnesses testified to being obstructed from observing the counting of ballots and of other irregularities in Philadelphia during a public hearing by the state’s Senate Republican Policy Committee.
Poll observers Justin Qweder and Kim Peterson—the first two witnesses at the Pennsylvania hearing—testified that they could not properly observe anything at the Philadelphia Convention Center.
Qweder said he was a certified observer on the day of the election and returned as a volunteer observer for the next 10 days where he estimated he spent around 85 hours at the center. He said what he saw was “problematic to say the least.”
“The Philadelphia board of elections processed hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots with zero civilian oversight or observation,” Qweder said.
“The board of elections erected a fence about 50 feet into the hall that ran the length of the room, all observers were corralled behind the fence. More than a hundred board workers processed and opened mail-in ballots on the other side of fence.”
Qweder said the workers were arranged about “10 feet to more than 200 feet away from us.” He said the room was approximately 350 feet by 350 feet.
“Due to the distance of the workers from the erected fences, it was impossible for me or any observer to see what the workers were doing with any type of specificity,” he said. “The observers were not able to challenge any decision or determination being made about the processing of these mail-in ballots.”
The second issue Qweder said he found to be irregular was the board’s duplication process. As the days progressed, observers were informed that the board was going to be duplicating damaged mail-in ballots that could not be read by their scanners. He was told there were more than 5,000 of these damaged ballots and that the actual number was unknown and could be higher.
The process for counting these duplicated ballots involved 2 workers, one reading aloud what was marked by the damaged ballot, and the second worker using a pink highlighter to mark the choice on a blank ballot. The board’s plan, he said, was to run the pink highlighted ballots through the scanners and workers did this over a course of days.
On Nov. 12 the observers were informed that the pink highlighters could not be read by the scanners and that the board had to redo all of them.
“The board of elections solution was to give the workers stacks of hundreds of what amounted to blank mail-in ballots, “Qweder said. “The workers, individually, were to fill in the corrected highlighted ovals with [a] dark pen. No observation.”
“They were marking thousands of blank mail-in ballots,” he said. “The workers did this double re-creation work for hours before the observers realized what was going on, because we weren’t told what was going on.”
“Only when the observers confronted the deputy commissioner about this irregularity was a system set up where the workers would show the observers each double re-created mail-in ballot by flashing it at them for a second from a distance of 6 to 20 feet away … Thousands were ultimately counted in this way.”
Qweder said he found this to be an issue and that it was irregular.
Democratic Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she has seen no evidence of voter fraud or mass irregularities that would overturn the election results in the state. State data shows that Biden leads Trump by about 80,000 votes. Other secretaries in other states where the results are being challenged have echoed those claims.
Kim Peterson, another observer, said she also could not see anything when it came to the envelope, the ballot, or where the workers were stacking them. She noted that the closest poll worker was about 20 feet away from her.
She said there were monitors meant to show the counting, but that they were “pathetic” as they were fuzzy and could not be read.
“You could not even see at all … very discouraging,” she said.
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