City's top election official ousted from position

City Commissioner Stephanie Singer was voted off by the other two members of their three-member board

· November 7, 2012, 3:39 pm

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City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, who oversaw the Board of Elections in Philadelphia, was ousted from her position as chair by her fellow city commissioners.

On Wednesday, Republican Al Schmidt and Democrat Anthony Clark, who serve with Singer on a three-person board, voted to remove her as chair and name themselves co-chairs. Singer, also a Democrat, and Schmidt were elected to their positions last November.

At a regularly-scheduled public commissioners’ meeting Wednesday, Schmidt made the motion to remove Singer from her position as chair. This was seconded by Clark. The post-election meeting also debriefed widespread issues with voter registration and minority inspectors at the polls on Election Day.

Committee of Seventy Vice President and Policy Director Ellen Kaplan, who attended the meeting, observed that Singer looked visibly shaken and shocked, but that others present at the meeting — including reporters, other Committee of Seventy members and other City Commissioner staff — did not react strongly.

The move came less than 24 hours after Election Day, when there were reported citywide issues at polling locations. In many instances, voters’ names were not in voter rolls even though they had registered. They were forced to cast provisional ballots.

Schmidt said his office will “figure out what it is that we can do better. A new beginning, however, requires new leadership, and at this point, I make a motion to reorganize the commission, to replace Commissioner Singer as chair and nominate Commissioner Clark and myself as co-chairmen.”

According to Kaplan, “This almost certainly raises the question whether there was something that occurred during yesterday’s election that precipitated this ouster.”

But tensions on the three-person board have been building for a while. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, there was tension between Singer and the other two over her intensions to give a salary raise to her Deputy Commissioner Dennis Lee. Schmidt and Clark were against this move.

Schmidt and Clark have also complained that Singer sometimes overstepped her powers as chair, such as scheduling meetings and making personnel decisions. “All three offices should play equally active roles,” Schmidt said. “I wasn’t elected to be a potted plant.”

The Daily Pennsylvanian could not reach Schmidt directly for comment.

“I think the tensions have been brewing long before Tuesday’s elections,” Kaplan said. Schmidt and Singer had campaigned on similar reform platforms in 2011 but “unity had broken down once they got into office for reasons that were not visible to the outside,” she said.

Kaplan added it was obvious during public meetings in the past that there was a lot of strain among the three commissioners.

“It was a surprise,” Singer told reporters following the ousting. “I’m here to serve the people of Philadelphia, I’m here for free and fair elections and an informed engaged electorate and a respectful and effective workplace.”

Sports Editor Mike Wisniewski contributed reporting.

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