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Still reviewing fraud charges A federal appeals court ruled last week that University alumnus Bruce Marks should not be sworn in as state senator while the court reviews charges of voter fraud against his opponent, Democrat William Stinson. Marks was expecting to be sworn in yesterday, on his 37th birthday, when the Senate reconvened after a month-long recess. Senators had hoped that the break would allow time for the courts to settle the dispute, which began last November. Two weeks ago, the Philadelphia City Commissioners certified Marks, a Republican, as the winner in last November's special election for the Second District. This came after a federal District judge ruled that a significant number of absentee ballots cast in the election were fraudulent. In February, U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Newcomer said Stinson must vacate his seat and be replaced by Marks. Newcomer said in his 37-page decision that fraud was so extensive that none of the 1,757 absentee ballots cast in the predominantly black and Latino wards of the district could be counted. This latest ruling has added yet another twist to the political saga which began in November. It was only a few weeks ago Marks ironically said, "I'm hopeful that I can be sworn in and represent the Second District as soon as possible." On Saturday, Attorney General Ernie Preate Jr. formally charged Stinson and two of his campaign workers with electoral abuses, after a grand jury indicted the workers. Stinson was charged with opening and counting absentee ballots at his neighborhood poll station in Northeast Philadelphia, as well as locking and unlocking the voting machines. Both charges are misdemeanors under state law. Barbara Landers, a Democratic committeewoman, and Ramon Pratt, a field worker, were charged with filling out absentee ballot forms for some voters, attempting to influence voters and telling residents they could vote via absentee ballot even though they did not qualify to do so. Although the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's findings of electoral fraud, the decision leaves the Second District without a representative in the State Senate. "The appeal's decision did not reverse anything the lower court said, in fact, it affirmed the fraud findings," said Marks' lawyer Paul Rosen. "What it did is it stayed Bruce being declared the winner on the machine vote until it could study the record." The appeals court is expected to release a final decision in about seven days, he added. In the meantime, Rosen said, Lieutenant Governor Mark Singel has filed a request for another election in the district. The Philadelphia Inquirer contributed to this story.

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