On Wednesday, Philadelphia Magazine reported that a staffer of a Philadelphia politician has been charged for engaging in voter fraud between 2015 and 2019.
Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Jennifer Arbittier Williams, filed federal charges against Marie Beren, 67, on Tuesday.
Charges allege that Beren, a staffer for City Councilmember Mark Squilla, wrongfully manipulated election results in three South Philly divisions. Prosecutors charged Beren with four counts of voter fraud and conspiracy.
The charges suggest that Beren worked with a former elected official (identified in the filing as Consultant 1) to ensure “his clients’ electoral success.”
The filing reportedly notes that the Consultant “exercised influence and control in Philadelphia’s 39th Ward by distributing cash payments and supporting family, friends and allies for elective office in the 39th Ward, and installing Ward Leaders, Judges of Elections, and [members of the] Democratic State Committee.”
Philadelphia Magazine’s report also offered the following details: “The feds say the consultant recruited and installed Beren as a committee person for the Democratic Party in South Philadelphia’s 39th Ward in approximately 1984. Four years later, that same consultant recruited Beren to serve as a judge of elections for the 39th Ward’s second division, the judge of elections essentially being the person in charge of a polling place during the primary and general elections.”
“As the feds put it, Beren was the ‘de facto judge of elections’ for all three divisions,” the report continued.
Though Beren stepped down from her position as judge of elections in 2015, she reportedly “installed” her replacement. This, prosecutors reportedly charge, meant that Beren “continued to effectively run all three divisions located at the Seafarer’s Union Hall from 2015 through at least 2019,” without officially being in charge.
The government claims that Consultant 1 in the complaint directed Beren to manipulate voting tallies. Prosecutors reportedly charged “that these fraudulent votes were cast for candidates at every level of government, from municipal to state to federal.”
Beren is said to have perpetuated voter fraud in a variety of ways: She would allegedly advise in-person voters how to vote, falsify the “voting book,” cast fraudulent votes herself, and encourage and permit in-person voters to vote on behalf of absent family members.
At this time, it is unclear whether Beren’s actions changed the result of any election.
Anne Kelly King, Squilla’s chief of staff, told Philadelphia Magazine that Squilla’s office no longer employs Beren.
Philadelphia has a notorious history of political intrigue and corruption. A former election judge in the same South Philadelphia ward pleaded guilty in 2020 to accepting bribes and adding fraudulent votes for Democratic candidates between 2014 and 2016.
“These allegations are an encouraging sign that our partners in law enforcement continue to investigate and prosecute voter fraud at polling places, as they’d done in the past in conjunction with our office,” Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt told Philadelphia Magazine.
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