With all the speculation about voting irregularities in recent years,
you'd think any review of voting complaints would be handled openly. No need to cause even more suspicion. Right?
Seems like sound logic to us — but also legally sound. Not in the
view of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which this week closed a hearing on a voter discrimination complaint.
The complaint was filed by Bensalem resident Bhavin Patel, who charged county officials with trying to keep the many Indian
and Russian immigrants in his voting district — mostly Democrats — from casting ballots.
Officials said they moved the polling place after receiving letters complaining
of a high crime rate in the area surrounding the polling place. Turns out the letters were written by a Republican committee
member and a former committee member.
Voters have reason to be upset — if not suspicious. The new polling
place is a mile away and requires voters who don't or can't drive to cross busy Street Road on foot.
This week's “fact-finding” hearing was closed to the public
even though commission Director Carlene Neal could not cite a state law allowing the hearing to be closed. A surprising decision
from an organization charged with guarding “against any form of discrimination.”
Apparently, discriminating against public accountability doesn't count.
And there's no question that the hearing should have been open. Reached
after the hearing, a commission attorney said a second hearing, if needed, would be open to the public. Likewise, a Pennsylvania
Newspaper Association attorney said the hearing, like any judicial proceeding, should have been open to the public and the
We urge the commission to abide by the advice of its own legal counsel
in the future.