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, if they are counted, 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.”
The Committee of Seventy had raised concerns that the City Commissioners, elected officials who manage city elections, were not processing late voter registrations quickly enough. Seventy Director Zack Stalberg wrote in a letter that up to 20,000 registrations were still unprocessed in mid-October, “raising the possibility that potential voters will not be registered –or know whether they are registered –in time to vote on Election Day.”
“We have alerted the City Commissioners,” says the Seventy staffer. “They are looking at the problem. Probably fair to say that they seem to think it’s not that big an issue. But I will say this: we can’t link it to the backlog issue per se, but it’s hard for us not to at least wonder about that.”