Friday, December 31, 1993
1993 The Philadelphia Inquirer
THEY VOTED THE OLD
WAY: FROM A HOUSE THAT ISN'T HOME
SOME VOTERS IN THE 2D
DISTRICT LIVE BEYOND ITS BORDERS.
SOME LIVE OUT OF THE
CITY. SOME LIVE OUT OF THE STATE.
This story was written
by Inquirer staff writer
Thomas Ferrick Jr.
based on his reporting and that of
Daniel Rubin, Lea
Sitton, Mark Fazlollah, Craig R. McCoy,
Sergio Bustos, Neill
A. Borowski, Alan Hasbrouck, Pam Belluck,
Rich Henson, Fawn
Vrazo, David Lee Preston and Wanda Motley.
Like any party activist,
Francis X. McDade was a busy man on Election Day in
Philadelphia last month.
McDade, a Democratic
committeeman in Olney's 42d Ward, worked as the voting-machine
inspector in his division on Nov. 2. His job was to reset the machine
after each person voted.
His wife, Eileen, was
judge of elections at the same polling place in the
16th division. Her job was to oversee all balloting.
The two McDades voted
from the 16th that day. By absentee ballot, two of their three
children did, too.
There is one thing askew
in this family portrait of political activism.
None of the McDades lives
in the 16th division, or in the 42d Ward, or in Philadelphia.
They live in Montgomery County.
While the McDades'
voter-registration cards list their address as 217 E. Robat St., a
two-story rowhouse owned by a fellow Democratic committeeman, they
have owned a graystone Victorian twin in Cheltenham Township since
1971. Public documents have listed them at that address for years.
McDade, 55, a machinist
who works for Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., which publishes The
Inquirer and Daily News, declined requests for an interview as did
As part of its
examination of the special election in the Second State Senate
District, The Inquirer looked at the voting and registration habits
of the ward leaders, elected officials and committee people in that district.
The examination found
cases of people who don't live where they are registered, of ward
leaders who reside outside the city, of committee people whose houses
serve as the voting address of relatives who live elsewhere.
In the Nov. 2 special election,
Second District voters told of campagn workers who touted a "new
way" of voting - casting absentee ballots. But there are also
old-fashioned ways of voting - politics as it's been practiced for
years in the wards of Philadelphia.
In this world, where a
person lives and where a person registers to vote can be in different
sections of town. The voter can live out of town. Or even out of state.
In this world, some
children never leave the nest - at least when it comes to voting -
even when they are in their 30s and have houses and families elsewhere.
In this world, official
voter lists show as many as a dozen adults registered in two- and three-story
rowhouses. Or 14 registered from a one- floor apartment above a
corner grocery. Or four registered from a funeral home.
No claim is made here
that these types of cases are unique to the Second District or to one
party. The Second is just one slice of the city: Only about 15
percent of the city's 800,000 voters live there.
Determining where a
person resides for voting purposes is not an exact science. A lot of
complex questions have to be answered, from where the voter spends
most of his or her time to more abstract issues such as the voter's intent.
If found to have lied on
a registration card or to have engaged in what state law calls
"unlawful voting," the voter can be punished by fines, jail
terms or both. In practice, prosecutions are rare. The last time a
Philadelphian was convicted of vote fraud was 1979.
State Rep. Matthew J.
Cianciulli Jr. was sentenced to three years in federal prison for his
role in getting people who lived outside his district to register -
including about 20 who voted from his corner grocery store in South Philadelphia.
Frederick L. Voigt said
that what Cianciulli did was an example of ''wretched excess"
that caught the attention of federal investigators.
In general, though, the
courts have given the benefit of the doubt to voters so as not to
deny them the right to vote, according to Voigt, executive secretary
of the Committee of Seventy, an independent group that monitors elections
indicators of residence, which usually involve certain questions: Can
a person live there? Is it a store? Where do you get your mail? Where
do you insure your car?" Voigt said. "But basically, if you
can live there and you say you do live there - for voting purposes -
the courts have treated this with a degree of liberality."
boards treat disputes over residency as administrative matters.
Sometimes the boards hold hearings on disputed cases. If they find
against the voter, there is no penalty or fine. They simply strike
the name from the rolls.
The city commissioners,
who oversee elections, find thousands of cases each
year of voters who have moved, left town or died. They strike the
names from the rolls.
The commissioners' office
also sends out periodic first-class mailings to various wards and
investigates all letters returned as undeliverable. And it gets lists
several times each year from the state Bureau of Vital Statistics
of people who have died. Can someone slip through the net?
"Yep," said Bob
Lee, the city's voter-registration administrator. "If we don't
get a return from the post office or the occupant telling us a voter
doesn't live there anymore, we can't follow it because we don't have
The experts say the
system counts on voters and political leaders to let the city know
who has changed addresses. Not everyone does.
Take Lee's boss, for example.
Margaret Tartaglione is
chair of the city commissioners. In addition to overseeing elections,
she is also Democratic leader of the 62d Ward.
Seven people are
registered to vote from her home at 1407 Van Kirk St. in the
Northeast. Most are family members. One of them is her daughter, Mary
Ann, 30, who voted in November, using that address.
Public documents indicate
Mary Ann moved this spring to the 63d Ward - which is outside the
Second District - to live on the 600 block of Hoffnagle Street.
The law allows voters to
cast ballots from their old addresses if they have moved less than 30
days before an election. Otherwise they must register
from their new residences.
Contacted at her
Hoffnagle Street home, Mary Ann Tartaglione declined to comment. Her
mother also declined, referring all questions to the city lawyers
handling queries on election matters.
For ward leaders and
committee people, ability to deliver votes enhances power, prestige,
and access to patronage jobs and street money. They know every vote matters.
The superheated contest
between Democrat William G. Stinson and Republican
Bruce Marks is proof of that. Of 40,573 votes cast in the special election, Stinson
won by 461. That averages to fewer than two votes per division.
In races like that, even
a modest rowhouse can be a center of power.
The rowhouse on 3355 N.
Mascher St. has seen better days.
Its mud-brown stucco
walls are sprayed with graffiti. The ground floor
windows are broken. The
mauve mini-blinds are tattered and shut.
This is the address of
Joan Hughes and Phyllis M. Wildonger - mother and daughter - who also
serve as Democratic committee people. In Philadelphia, committee
people are elected every fourth primary election by
voters from the same party in their division.
Phyllis is the niece of
Patricia Hughes, the former city councilwoman and Democratic leader
of the Seventh Ward, who lives on nearby Kip Street.
Phyllis has a patronage
job at the Philadelphia Parking Authority. She was active as a street
worker in the Stinson campaign.
Six people voted out of
3355 Mascher on Nov. 2. Two lived there at the time.
Two others - Phyllis
Wildonger and her husband, Steven - were found last week at
dinnertime at their home on East Cornwall Street in Kensington, which
is in another ward and outside the Second Senate District.
"I have nothing to
say," she said, then added, "I just moved here two weeks
before the election."
The couple has had mail
forwarded to the Cornwall Street home for a year. Their drivers'
licenses also list that as their residence. So does a Stinson
campaign finance report listing expenses paid to Phyllis Wildonger
between June and November.
Two other Mascher Street
voters were found closer to the old home - about 10 blocks away on
One of them was Frances
Hughes, Phyllis' younger sister. The other is her husband, Lawrence
Frances said that she
"used to live" on Mascher Street, but added that Kauffman
never lived in the house. He said he had.
It's been "10 years
since I lived there," he said. He said that he and Frances had
"always been registered from Mascher Street. I had no reason to
change it back."
He said that he and
Frances go to Hancock and Ontario, to a legion post, to vote.
"It's easier for me to walk up there," he said. If he had
changed his registration to the Reese Street address, he said, he and
his wife would have to vote at a Spanish-speaking polling place,
which they did not want to do.
"It's the same
district and everything," he said. "Just a different
For her part, Phyllis
Wildonger says she was entitled to vote in the November election
from her old home. "My residence is still on Mascher Street. It
is my mother's house. It is my primary residence."
The house on Mascher
Street, which had been owned by Joan and Daniel B. Hughes Jr., was
sold at sheriff's sale this month.
Bill Rieger can regale
you with tales about the area around his house on Rising Sun Avenue,
a few blocks behind Temple University Hospital.
How it used to be an
all-German neighborhood. How his family has lived there for 100
years. How W.C. Fields used to live across the street.
W.C. Fields is long gone
from the neighborhood. There is reason to think that Bill Rieger is, too.
Rieger, a state
representative from the 179th District and Democratic leader of the
43d Ward, is still registered from 1141 Rising Sun Ave. He and his
wife voted using that address on Nov. 2.
He spends his time at
another home he owns on Frankford Avenue, eight-and- one-half miles
north of 1141 Rising Sun.
The Frankford Avenue
house, which Rieger has owned since 1976, is outside his House
district, his ward and the Second Senate District.
As early as 1978, Rieger
was questioned about the home in Frankford Avenue. He said that he
had bought it for his son and that he lived there from time to time.
When political rivals
conducted early-morning stakeouts of both homes during the 1988
Democratic primary, they only found him emerging from the one in
Frankford Avenue, according to Alan McHale, who was the campaign
manager of Ben Ramos, Rieger's opponent in that race and now a deputy mayor.
"He was never, ever
at the Rising Sun address (in the mornings)," McHale said.
Ramos complained to the
State Ethics Commission, whose chairman wrote to Rieger informing him
"a serious question exists as to whether you have violated other
laws concerning the requirement that you reside in your legislative district."
The commission referred
the matter to the state Attorney General, who took no action,
according to spokesman Robert Gentzel.
Today, the title is still
in the name of Rieger, his wife and son. Rieger's green Cadillac with
House of Representative plates is still routinely berthed in the
driveway. So is his red Buick Park Avenue, leased by the state for
$557 a month.
And Rieger continues to
maintain Rising Sun Avenue is his home.
"It's bull-, it's
bull-," he said this week by phone from his Frankford Avenue
address. He said his son owns the Frankford Avenue house and that
"my wife is arthritic and she lives up here."
Two days after the election
he suffered a heart attack, he said. "My wife is up here a lot.
And then I had the heart attack and I was alone down there (on Rising
Sun) with no one to take care of me."
Perri Jr., 31, is Republican leader of the 23d Ward. His father,
Fred Sr. is a former state legislator and ward leader, who now works
in the city court system.
The family home at 1320
Arrott St. is owned by the father. The son is listed on voting
records as living in the house since 1972. He voted Nov. 2 using the
Arrott Street address.
Fred Jr. also owns a home
in Bucks County, one he bought in 1992 on Meadowbrook Road in Upper Southampton.
His telephone number is
listed as this address in the Bucks County directory. State records
show his drivers license from the Meadowbrook Road.
Contacted by The
Inquirer, Perri first said he was living in Upper Southampton and
correctly added that ward leaders can live outside their wards.
When it was pointed out
that Perri voted out of his Arrott Street address, Perri amended his
statement to say he lived in both places.
"I've been living
there off and on, going back and forth," he said, declining to
estimate what percent of the time his family was at the Meadowbrook address.
"I don't think
there's anything improper," he said. "Your casual readers
are going to draw their own conclusion. Whatever conclusions they
draw is entirely up to them."
Finally, a visit to the
Its base of power is the
18th division of the 43d Ward in Hunting Park. Anthony is a
Democratic committeeman there and served as judge of elections
on Nov. 2.
Day, four people voted from a funeral home at 529 Rising Sun Ave.
that once belonged to Rotondo's family. None of them lives there.
Rotondo and his wife,
Karen, are registered to vote from a house across the street at 534
Rising Sun. They voted from that address on Nov. 2.
A Spanish-speaking woman
who answered the door at 534 said that five Rotondos lived there. A
next-door neighbor said they had moved out "years ago."
Records list an address
for Anthony and Karen in the Holmesburg section, which is in the
Fifth Senatorial District.
Among the funeral-home
voters are Rotondo's mother, Theresa, his grandfather and his sister.
The fourth voter is
Joseph F. Toland Jr., whose mother said he has lived in New Jersey
for three or four years. "He does not vote," Teresa Klein
said of her son, a roofer.
Records show that Toland
was registered to vote from the funeral home in 1989 and that he has
voted in nine elections since then - seven times by absentee ballot.
Efforts to talk with
Toland were unsuccessful.
Rotondo, who is a clerk
in the Register of Wills office, did not respond to messages left
last week at his home and city office. Last month he said, "I
really don't have anything to say because whatever I say, you're
going to misconstrue. . . . I'm not answering your questions."
Len E. Ellis, who owns
the funeral home at 529-31 Rising Sun Ave., said none of the four
people who voted from his address lives there. He does not even know
two of them, he said.
"I was not aware
that all of them were voting out of my address," Ellis said last
Thursday, who bought the funeral home from Rotondo in 1990.
Reached last Thursday at
her Rhawnhurst house, which lies in the Second Senatorial District,
Theresa Rotondo dismissed the fuss over her voter registration.
"I only vote
once," she said. "Nobody pays me to vote."
VOTING HERE, LIVING THERE
NAME: Francis X. McDade
VOTING ADDRESS: 217 E.
WARD 42 DIVISION 16
Francis X. McDade, 55,
and wife Eileen M. McDade, 49, registered there since 1985. Children
Francis Jr., 19, Therese, 21, and Laboure, 22, added onto rolls as
they came of age. All three children went to Cheltenham Township
Schools, K-12, where they drew acclaim for their swimming abilities.
"A great family," said one school official.
On their driver's
licenses, Eileen and her children call Melrose Park home. On his
licence, Francis lists the city address - owned by fellow
committeeman Michael Calviello, 68. Three years ago Francis
registered his car out of the Montgomery County address. In a 1991
lawsuit in Philadelpia Common Pleas Court, he declared the Melrose
Park twin to be his residence.
NAME: Francis M. Felici Jr.
VOTING ADDRESS: 4010
WARD 33rd DIVISION 11th
to Elect Bill Stinson,
for Second Senatorial
As he has in every
election since 1989, Francis M. Felici Jr., 38, a
financial expert and
political and civic activist in Juniata, cast his ballot in November
from the 33d Ward's 11th Division. His voter's registration form
during those years lists his address as 4010 Lawndale Avenue, also
the longtime home of his parents, Frank and Agnes.
Felici owns a home on
Holyoke Road in the far Northeast - eight miles from 4010 Lawndale
and in a different state senatorial district. He became the co- owner
of it with his wife in 1988 shortly after their marriage, according
to city and real estate records.
Felici's driver's license
is issued to his Holyoke Road address; so is his wife's. And his
wife, Catherine, is registered to vote there.
Asked about the residency
issues in a telephone interview Tuesday, Felici Jr. said: "I
think that's personal," and added, "Holyoke is my home."
He also suggested that
for personal reasons he had lived at different residences at
questions, he said, should be directed to his attorney. He declined
to identify the lawyer, saying he preferred that the attorney have
the option of initiating a call to The Inquirer. No call was received.
NAMES: Craig Cummons,
Robert A. Cummons, Robert J. Bologa.
VOTING ADDRESS: 4314
NEIGHBORHOOD: Juniata Park
WARD 33 DIVISION: 5
Craig, the son,
is a Democratic committeeman.
Robert A. Cummons, 66,
owned the house until Nov. 10, but had lived in New Jersey for the
past 15 months, where he registered to vote. Meanwhile, he, his son
Craig, 40, and Robert J. Bologa, 43, kept it as their voting address.
According to a couple who
lived there from August 1992 until the house was sold, neither
Cummons nor Bologa lived there during that period.
Robert A. Cummons had his
mail forwarded to a second-floor waterfront condo he owns in North
Wildwood starting in August 1992, according to U.S. Postal Service records.
On Oct. 1 of this year,
he registered to vote in Cape May County. Applied for an absentee
ballot, but did not vote there.
Voted instead in
Philadelphia by absentee ballot because of health reasons. In an
interview this week at the shore, he said he voted by absentee
because he was recovering from triple bypass surgery at Thomas
Jefferson University Hospital's Ford Road campus.
Before talking with his
son on the phone and ending the interview, he said this: "I've
only been here five months. I used to live in Juniata Park. I did
nothing wrong, and my son did nothing wrong. Why would I vote in
Jersey, when I had residence in Philadelphia?"
Joanna De Christopher,
who lived in the rowhouse from August 1992 to this October, said that
while they were renting Craig "used our address. Craig said he
lived there to other people . . . Down where you vote he would tell
people it was his house." Efforts to interview the younger
Cummons were unsuccessful.
Bologa, a former Cardinal
Dougherty High School coach, said in an interview that he hasn't
lived at that address since 1990 or 1991. "I wasn't there
long," he said. "Six months to a year." Although he
moved to a house on Large Street in Oxford Circle, he worked at a rec
center near Potter Street, so he continued to vote in the
neighborhood - as recently as the May primary.
"I have two
residences, for voting," he said. One where he lives; one where
NAME: Linda Papanikolaou
and Lucinda Barbakos
VOTING ADDRESS: 150 E.
WARD 42 DIVISION 6
POLITICAL POSITION: none
Linda Papanikolaou has
voted in every election since she signed up in January 1988 out of
the two-story building, with a corner grocery on the first floor and
apartment on the second. Owned by Democratic committeewoman Fani
Papanikolaou, 14 voters registered there.
Linda's brother and
neighbors say she doesn't live there. Try the 6600 block of Leonard
Street, in the Oxford Circle section of Northeast Philadelphia, they say.
Her 1993 Toyota is
registered at the Oxford Circle twin, which her driver's license
lists as her home. Next-door neighbor says she's lived there at least
Linda Papanikolaou - who
declined to comment about her voting records - is co-owner of the
Sunset Cafe in Feltonville. For the last four years, she's listed her
address with the state Liquor Control Bureau as the Oxford Circle
property, which is in a different division that the Feltonville home,
but is still in the Second Senatorial District.
On Oct. 19, she applied
for an absentee ballot for the November election. Said she'd lived on
Louden Street since 1988.
registered in April 1991 from the Louden Street address and also
voted in November. Her driver's license and her car registration list
her home address as on Deep Dale Drive East in Levittown, Bucks County.
Grandfather Louis C.
Barbakos says Lucinda lived at his home in Bucks County at one time.
Said she no longer lives there. May be living in Philadelphia. Said
he did not know where.
In an earlier interview,
Lucinda's grandfather said she travels back and forth between her
home in Philadelphia and the Levittown place.
She could not be reached
1-2. Five members of the
McDade family are registered to vote at the house on
the left in Olney. They
have lived for years just over the city line in
3. Francis M. Felici Jr.
votes from here and owns a house with his wife in
the Far Northeast.
4. Three people who voted
this year from this row house haven't lived there
5. Of the 14 people
registered from this property, at least two have called
elsewhere home. (Inquirer
photographs by Sharon J. Wohlmuth and Ed Hille)
1. Voting Here, Living
There (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
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