Funny business in Philly: GOP officials booted, Black Panthers return -- and Obama at polling site?
Operators of a Philadelphia polling place have been ordered by a judge to cover up a mural of President Obama that is emblazoned on a wall behind the voting machines.
The mural was being covered by voter instruction posters -- after Republicans voiced concerns that the painting could influence voters.
The mural, apparently at a school being used as a polling site in Ward 35, contained the words "change!" and "hope," along with a quote from the president and painting of him.
Republicans quickly drew attention to the image Tuesday morning, with one Mitt Romney spokesman tweeting: "Voters in Philly's Ward 35 are being forced to cast their ballots next to this."
"It is an absolute disgrace," said Shannon Royer, deputy secretary for external affairs and elections in Pennsylvania. "Election materials and electioneering inside the polling place are prohibited by state law. This can be interpreted as trying to influence voters inside the polling place. I am told discussions are going on now about covering the mural."
Pennsylvania election law states "no person within a polling place may electioneer or solicit votes for any political party, political body, or candidate, nor may any unauthorized written or printed materials be posted within the polling place."
It was one of several controversies surfacing in Pennsylvania's largest city on Election Day.
A Pennsylvania judge also issued an order Tuesday to reinstate Republican election officials across
Philadelphia who allegedly were ejected or refused entry by on-site Democratic voting chief judges.
One Republican official claimed that "just under 70" Republican election officials were blocked from Philadelphia polling sites Tuesday morning by Democrats on site. One of them, the official claimed, "was shoved out of the polling place."
"For this many inspectors to be ejected from polling places is rare, even for Philadelphia," the official told FoxNews.com.
Elsewhere in the city, a representative from the New Black Panther Party was also spotted outside a polling site. The New Black Panthers stirred controversy in 2008 when members appeared outside a polling site, one of them holding a billy club. The representative seen Tuesday morning was not armed.
The flap over the election judges, though, was widespread. Republicans claim they are obtaining a series of court orders to seat the so-called election "inspectors," and sheriff's deputies will be available to escort them.
Despite the high number of officials who were allegedly booted, the dispute itself is not uncommon for Philadelphia. Fred Voigt, legal counsel for the city commissioners, said these kinds of face-offs happen "with regularity" in the City of Brotherly Love.
"It happens all the time," Voigt said. He said court-appointed Republican officials typically show up on Election Day and end up squaring off against stand-in officials at the polling sites filling in the open seats. Part of the problem, he said, is that the Republican inspectors are appointed on relatively short notice, leading to a string of confrontations on Election Day.
"There are no cool heads here," Voigt said.
The on-site election officials are responsible for verifying the identity of voters, and monitoring for signs of fraud or disenfranchisement.