PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain released a video on May 21, 2020, in which he discussed the charging and guilty plea of former Philadelphia Judge of Elections Domenick J. DeMuro. Below are U.S. Attorney McSwain’s remarks, as prepared for delivery.
Good morning. I am here to announce that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has unsealed criminal charges against Domenick J. DeMuro, a former Judge of Elections for the 39th Ward, 36th Division in South Philadelphia. DeMuro has been charged with two counts: first, for conspiring to deprive Philadelphia voters of their civil rights by fraudulently stuffing the ballot boxes for specific Democratic candidates in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 primary elections; and second, for a violation of the Travel Act, which forbids the use of any facility in interstate commerce (here, a cell phone) with the intent to promote certain illegal activity (here, bribery). DeMuro has pled guilty to both of these charges.
This prosecution has been a team effort, and before I get into a more detailed description of what happened in this case, there are several people that I want to recognize and thank. First, from the FBI, Mike Driscoll, who is the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office, as well as Special Agent Carmen DiMario, who is the lead investigator on the case. I want to thank the Public Integrity Section at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, and specifically Section Chief Corey Amundson, Deputy Chief John Keller, and the Director of the Election Crimes Branch of the Section, Richard Pilger. I also want to thank Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Barrett, who is the Chief of our Public Corruption Unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Gibson, who is the lead prosecutor on the case. And finally, I would like to thank the Pennsylvania State Police for their assistance in this investigation.
The position that DeMuro held, the Judge of Elections, is an elective office and a paid position. The Judge of Elections is responsible for overseeing the entire election process and voter activities of his or her Division. Each Judge of Elections is charged with overseeing the Division’s polling place in accordance with federal and state election laws, and is required to attend Election Board Training conducted by the Philadelphia City Commissioners.
The voting machines at each polling station, including the 39th Ward, 36th Division, generate records in the form of a printed receipt documenting the use of each voting machine. The printed receipt, also known as the “results receipt,” shows the vote totals, among other information. The Judge of Elections and the Election Board Officials at each polling place attest to the accuracy of machine results by affixing their signatures to the last page of the results receipt.
Our election system relies on the honesty and the integrity of its Election Officials. If they are corrupt, the system is corrupt, which creates opportunities for election fraud and for the counting of fake votes.
Domenick DeMuro did not uphold his duties as an Election Official. A political consultant gave DeMuro directions and paid him money to illegally add votes for certain Democratic candidates on the primary ballots in 2014, 2015, and 2016. These candidates were individuals running for judicial office whose campaigns had hired the consultant, as well as other candidates for various federal, state, and local elective offices who were preferred by this consultant for a variety of reasons.
The political consultant would allegedly solicit monetary payments from his clients in the form of cash or checks as “consulting fees.” The consultant would then take portions of these funds and make payments to Election Board Officials, including DeMuro, in return for DeMuro and other Election Board officials tampering with the election results.
After receiving payments ranging from between $300 to $5,000 per election from the consultant, DeMuro would add fraudulent votes on the voting machine – also known as “ringing up” votes – for the consultant’s clients and preferred candidates, thereby diluting and distorting the ballots cast by actual voters. DeMuro would add these fraudulent votes to the totals during Election Day, and then would later falsely certify that the voting machine results were accurate. He would add the fraudulent votes by literally standing in the voting booth and voting over and over, as fast as he could, when he thought the coast was clear.
In May 2014, DeMuro stuffed the ballot box with 27 fraudulent ballots during the primary election. In May 2015, DeMuro padded the ballot box with 40 fraudulent votes; in 2016, it was 46 fraudulent votes. These numbers may sound relatively small, but they made up a significant percentage of the total votes cast at the polling place. In 2014, 118 total ballots were reported in the 36th Division of the 39th Ward. That means that DeMuro’s fraudulent votes accounted for over 22% of the total voting in that Division in 2014. In 2015, his fraud accounted for over 15% of the votes in the Division; in 2016, his fraud accounted for over 17% of the votes.
But at the end of the day, the specific numbers don’t really matter. Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. If only one vote has been illegally rung up or fraudulently stuffed into a ballot box, the integrity of that election is undermined. Again, the integrity of our elections depends on the honesty of our Election Officials – so we take any dishonesty by those officials very seriously. And I want to make it clear that this is an ongoing and active investigation.
I also want the public to know that my Office is taking every possible step that we can to ensure the integrity of every primary and general election in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 2020. For example, earlier this year, I announced that our Office has launched a review of all polling places in the Eastern District to determine if they are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. As this year marks the 30th anniversary of the ADA, there can be no doubt that counties have had more than enough time to ensure that their polling places provide full access to individuals with disabilities. We will work day and night to make sure that every citizen’s civil rights are protected, whether that is through access to the polls or making every legitimate vote count.
If you tamper with anyone’s right to vote or try to fix the results of any election in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, my Office will hold you accountable. If you are an Election Official or work with the polling places in any way, I urge you to do your job honestly and faithfully at every turn. That is what the public deserves, it is what democracy demands, and it is what my Office will enforce.