Pa. officials plan no probe despite extraordinary turnout, totals for Obama in Philly

Pennsylvania election officials say they are not planning to investigate the extraordinary turnout and vote totals that President Obama garnered from parts of Philadelphia last Tuesday.

"In a presidential election year, there are times where you get extremely high turnout," said Ron Ruman, press secretary for Pennsylvania's Department of State, in a telephone interview with Fox News.  "We would investigate if we thought there was something shady going on. But at this point, we have no reason to think that."

Ruman's comments came as Philadelphia news outlets and election analysts have flagged the near-unanimity with which the Obama-Biden ticket swept pockets of the City of Brotherly Love. As the Philadelphia Inquirer first reported last week, six of Philadelphia's 66 wards handed the president victory shares of 99 percent or better.  In 20 of the wards, the Obama vote totals exceeded 97 percent.

On Monday, the Inquirer reported that in 59 of Philadelphia's "divisions" -- these are subsets of wards, wherein fewer than 1,000 people might be registered to vote -- GOP nominee Mitt Romney failed to win even a single vote. Collectively, the votes for Obama across these divisions added up to 19,605, to Romney's zero.

"I don't find it hard to believe that there are neighborhoods in the United States where President Obama got 97 to 99 percent of the vote -- basically all African-Americans," said Michael Barone, a Fox News contributor who is the longtime editor of The Almanac of American Politics. "There are such neighborhoods, and you can see them in central-city, black ghetto (areas)."

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However, Barone noted that turnout rates in these areas was sometimes reported to have exceeded 90 percent, a level of enthusiasm that he said should arouse suspicion. "Philadelphia's been a place that's had some pretty irregular election procedures in the past," he said.

State Rep. Sam Smith, the Republican from the 66th District who serves as speaker of the Pennsylvania House, called the results "questionable." "In some precincts in Philadelphia, I think you're going to see, as they finish the official count, places where there are more people voting in a precinct than actually signed in at the poll book," Smith told Fox News.

Asked what gave him that idea, Smith cited the electoral history of the city and said he thought it would be "predictive" this time around, as well.

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, a Democrat whose congressional district abutted Philadelphia, said he has seen firsthand the "machine" at work in the city's politics, but he did not question the president's vote totals.

"The polling across the nation showed that the African-American community was supporting the president by about 98, 99 percent," Sestak told Fox News. "I think the people voted the way they believe in."

A Fox News analysis found that in some inner-city areas of Illinois, the vote totals for the president more or less matched those seen in Philadelphia.

In 10 of Chicago's 50 wards, for example, the Obama-Biden ticket captured 98 percent of the vote or more. In six of those wards, the figure climbed to 99 percent.