The Case of the AWOL Pollworker

Playing.Hooky

[Image courtesy of theobsessiveimagist.com]

Just when you think you’ve seen it all … Pittsburgh’s WTAE-4 has this story about a pollworker who decided he had better things to do on Election Day:

The lawyer for a North Versailles judge of elections argued Thursday there was no proof that anyone was kept from voting when his client failed to show up for duty and instead drove a jitney on Election Day.

Darrin Farmer was arrested by Allegheny County deputies after he was reported missing November 3rd. He serves as judge of elections and was supposed to be setting up voting machines and overseeing operations at the polling place inside the North Versailles Senior Center.

Authorities said Farmer instead dropped off his wife at a nearby Walmart and began giving jitney rides to people for money. Investigators found him in Swissvale, with two passengers, by tracking his wife’s cellphone, which had been left in the couple’s car. Voting at the precinct was delayed by close to three hours because Farmer also had the equipment and absentee ballots in his car, sheriff’s officials said.

At a court appearance Thursday, Farmer’s lawyer argued that the case should be thrown out because investigators have no proof that anyone was actually harmed by his actions.

“To (the detective’s) knowledge, he didn’t know of anyone who was unable to vote that day,” said attorney Justin Ketchel. “Therefore, no crime was committed, and all of the charges should have been dismissed.”

The judge disagreed and held all charges for trial.

My first reaction was to laugh (OK, maybe the second and third as well – it’s Friday, after all) but this is something that election officials have to consider when they send voting materials out with election workers before Election Day. This kind of “hooky” may not be a common problem (usually, when pollworkers don’t show they don’t have the rest of the precinct materials with them) but accidents, weather, car trouble or other unusual circumstances that can interfere with a smooth opening to Election Day are.

I’m hoping the trial in this case (if there is one) gets coverage because I’d be fascinated to hear what other defenses Mr. Farmer and his counsel have in mind.

Until then, Happy Friday, have a great weekend … and stay tuned!

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