Provisional Ballots a Mess in Philly

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What a mess:

The names of registered Philadelphia voters are not showing up on voter rolls and poll workers are instructing them to vote using provisional ballots, according to voters and poll workers in West and North Philadelphia. Provisional ballots are not counted until up to seven days after the election.

“We think it’s a real concern,” said a staffer at The Committee of Seventy, which monitors elections in Philadelphia. Voter ID, he says, is “not the central problem in Philadelphia today: [it’s] the messy administration of this election. The phones are just ringing off the hook. We’re fielding calls about people who are not in the polling books.”

Some poll workers are not even instructing people that they can file provisional ballots, and other voters are reportedly just walking away in frustration.

Poll workers and Obama campaign volunteers are anxious at the Acelero Learning center (23rd and Montgomery), where an estimated fifteen registered North Philly voters have been forced to vote using a provisional ballot.

“Their names are not in the books,” says Gwen Howard, a clerk who has worked this precinct (32 ward, 15th division) for years. “Something different. Some have [registration] cards and are not in the books. And you know they come every four years…They were pretty upset.”

Read Daniel Denvir. Hearing that this situation is pretty bad and is sucking up Democrat voter protection resources. Anybody have some perspective on the scope of the problem?

This entry was posted in Miscellany.

3 Responses to Provisional Ballots a Mess in Philly

  1. phillydem says:

    Speaking as a former judge of elections, here is what we did when a voter wasn’t in our poll book. First, find out if the voter is registered by calling the board of elections (they provide a number in the election kit/box information). If the voter is registered, the BoE will tell you what precinct and you, as the judge, will know if the voter is at the right place or not. If the voter isn’t in the right precinct, direct the voter to the correct polling place (we kept the Inquirer that listed all the current polling places). If the voter is registered, check if the name has been misspelled or the voter has been recently married, divorced or otherwise had a name change that isn’t reflected in the poll book yet. Make sure to check for loose poll book addenda pages that might not have been bound that contain new or changed registrations.
    If all that fails, then the voter will be given a provisional ballot to fill out. Each ballot has an individual tracking number and the voter is given a stub containing their specific ballot tracking number to ensure the ballot has been counted, but if not, why not. (Not sure how well this works, never having cast a provisional ballot, but that’s how it’s supposed to go.)
    At the end of the night, the provisional ballots all go in a manilla envelope, specifically marked for them, and are returned to the BoE along with the other official results printouts.

    During my 4 year term as a judge of elections, the primary reasons people weren’t in the poll book is because they were at the wrong precinct or their name had changed/was misspelled.

    No onw should be in a panic because more provisional ballots than usual might be being cast. They’ll all be counted.

    As for names not being in the poll books, I’d guess perhaps the court cases over the voter ID law may have impacted the processing and administration of the election in Philly. I know we often put updates on the front pages of the poll book, where you’re supposed to indicate a change should be made/registration updated, only to see that nothing was done from one election to the next. It makes me think the BoE is probably understaffed and/or underfunded.

  2. Chad Stouffer says:

    The roll book problem is massive. I have been to 8 or so polling places as an observer, and it appears that about 10% of voters are being forced to vote a provisional. To put this in perspective, this number is usually closer to one half of one percent. Other poll watchers in other locations throughout the city have reported similar numbers.

    People are even showing up with their registration cards, but still aren’t on the rolls. On top of it all, it appears that mostly young people and others that have either recently registered or recently changed addresses have been affected. The vast majority of those affected have been students. To make matters worse, the provisional ballots can be a bit confusing, leading people to make small errors, which can cause the vote to be completely ignored.

    Philadelphia and/or Pennsylvania should be ashamed of their inability to run an election. If the vote in Pennsylvania is close at all, Pennsylvania will be the new Florida, and provisionals will be the new hanging chads.

  3. phillydem says:

    Since we don’t have an election results thread, hearty congratulations to Kathleen Kane for becoming both the first female and Democratic PA Atty General. Her election and the size of her win surely is a repudiation of Corbett and his policies. The next two years should be interesting as she starts investigating the current administration.