PHILADELPHIA – Volunteers with a grass-roots organization in Philadelphia that purports to “help the elderly and immigrant voters get to the polls and understand the issues” are urging Russian-speaking voters in need of translation, or in a few cases are senile and have little grasp of the issues, to vote for Democrat Sen. John Kerry, and are going into the booths with some of them, WorldNetDaily has learned.

The group, organized by David Kushner, a Democrat activist from Philadelphia, consists of about 70 volunteers assisting the large elderly and Russian-speaking community of northeast Philadelphia in “understanding the ballots, providing translation for Russians, and if need be, going into the booths if further assistance is required.”

Kushner estimates that 95 percent of his volunteers are pro-Kerry. He says that in 2000, with about 50 volunteers, the group brought about 5,000 voters to the polls from various retirement homes and Russian organizations, and assisted an additional 20,000 with their voting. He says today, with a larger group, his organization hopes to reach about 35,000 voters.

Northeast Philadelphia has a large Russian immigrant community, some of whom speak little English. Most voting machines in the area are only translated into Spanish, leaving many Russian-speaking immigrants in need of assistance.

One volunteer told WorldNetDaily: “A lot of these voters understand the issues, but some of them have no clue. And there have been a few elderly that were totally lost. So what if we suggest they vote for Kerry?”

On occasion, the pro-Kerry volunteer translators are allowed into the booths if the voter requires further assistance.

Until recently, Philadelphia County election law dictated that only officials from the county election board be allowed to assist voters in the booths, but a change in law now bans election officials because of charges of partisanship, but allows the voter to bring in an individual of his choosing.

Volunteer Vladimir Rubin told WND: “I encourage voter turn out and help people make up their minds last minute. If they have any questions I answer, and if they need translation I give it to them. Only after I am done doing what they ask, do I suggest that they vote for Kerry.”

Kushner said, “I make sure every volunteer knows and understands the legal issues. Can I guarantee nothing is done wrong 100 percent of the time? No, I don’t have a camera in every booth.”

Also today, before the booths opened in the same area, some Republican poll watchers claimed they found nearly 2,000 votes already planted on Philadelphia machines scattered in heavy-minority locations throughout the city, reported Drudge Report.

But Philadelphia Deputy City Commissioner Ed Schulgan says the stories on the Internet and Drudge are not true. He says the city is not impounding any voting machines, and they have found no machines that had votes on them already.

Schulgan said his office has contacted all of the judges of elections in the areas in question by Drudge, and they indicated that they printed out the ballots showing that all candidates had “zero” votes and that’s when they opened the machines for voting. As of 11:30 a.m., Schulgan says, voting was going smoothly in the city with relatively few problems and no complaints of harassment or intimidation.

Pennsylvania, which carries 21 electoral votes, is a crucial swing state that can tilt the election to either candidate. The state divides fairly evenly between Democrat and Republican influence and also has a large number of registered independent voters. Democrats outnumbered Republicans in Pennsylvania 3.7 million to 3.2 million in 2001, according to a Penn State University survey. Overall, however, the state is considered to be conservative and Republican in the countryside, with the majority of registered Democrats clustered in and around the largest cities – Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

A Survey USA poll today shows an extremely tight race, giving Kerry a 1 point lead in Pennsylvania with 49 percent to Bush’s 48 percent.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.