Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pennsylvania Roundup #4

All the news is high turn-out. That bodes well for McCain – the pub base is energized to vote. We know the PUMAs are out and dedicated. Will reserve more updates until we start getting data.

Philadelphia County

Here's the 2:45 p.m. report from the Committee of Seventy:
A little more than half-way through the day, there seems to be high turnout and a modest number of complaints across the region. We hope the positive results, so far, are a result of the strong signals regarding Election Day behavior that were sent by Governor Rendell, Mayor Nutter, D.A. Lynne Abraham and the massive non-partisan field force of close to 1,000 Committee of Seventy volunteers.

We continue to look into several incidents, including minority polling officials being ousted by Democratic Judges of Elections in Philadelphia. We are also watching the now-36 City divisions (compared with 16 for the primary) with over the permitted 1,200 voters. Here are some other matters that merited attention:

• We received calls from several hospitals asking about voting procedures for patients who did not anticipate a hospital stay, including one new mother from Emmaus, PA who was “desperate to vote.” A voter who becomes physically disabled or ill between 5 p.m. on Friday, October 31st and 8 p.m. today is entitled to vote by emergency absentee ballot. The voter must complete an emergency ballot application and deliver it to the Court of Common Pleas in his or her county no later than 8 p.m. today in order to receive a ballot. Since personal delivery is not possible for hospitalized patients, the patient/voter can designate, in writing, a representative to deliver the emergency ballot to him or her and return the completed ballot to the county Board of Elections. If this isn’t possible, a judge can direct a county deputy sheriff to deliver an emergency absentee ballot. Please advise anyone in this situation to go to www.votespa.com to download the necessary forms. Voters who are uncertain about what to do should call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).

• We are still receiving isolated calls about machine breakdowns in Philadelphia, including both machines at 52nd and Chestnut Streets. However, these reports have slowed down considerably since this morning. Our volunteers are reporting that some committeepeople are nervous about running out of emergency paper ballots during the evening crunch should half of the machines break down. As in the April primary, the City Commissioners are saying that these fears are unfounded.

• At 11:30 a.m., Seventy’s volunteers followed up on a call that the Judge of Elections in the 5th Ward (225 N. 10th Street) was (improperly) requesting current drivers’ licenses with addresses from all voters. They found this report to be true, and also found that the line was being separated by last name as in many other divisions. However, this “line separation” was not explained to the many Chinese-speaking voters waiting in line. Our volunteers found that many voters were confused about why they were being pulled out of line and left the polling place. Seventy reported both of these problems to the City’s Law Department.

• Voters are facing a fair number of registration issues, including names not appearing in the poll book. In Philadelphia’s 58th ward, 40th division, the book was missing all last names from “Aa” to Aj.” There is also some confusion about voter identification, specifically whether or not a voter needs identification to cast a provisional ballot. The answer to that is “no.”


Voter turnout across the region has been extremely heavy today with some polling places reporting before noon that the number of voters already had exceeded the number that turned out during the April 22 primary.

In the Hill District, a former elementary school at the corner of Miller Street and Foreside Place once again bustled with people -- record numbers of voters passing through its doors. Many people said they were encouraged to vote because of their interest in the presidential race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

"This has been an excellent turnout," said Phyllis McDaniels, 70, an election judge for the precinct for the past 10 years.


Election officials are reporting larger-than-normal turnouts at some precincts in Schuylkill County.

As of 11 a.m., a precinct in Friedensburg, Wayne Township, saw 365 voters casting their votes, and more people were in a line that extended out the door of the Friedensburg Fire Company.

The head committeeman at Pottsville's Third Ward, First Precinct at St. Joseph Church, Pottsville, said the line was also out the door when the polls opened at 7 a.m. As of 11:30 a.m., things have calmed down a bit.

Nancy Mack, Schuylkill Haven, a volunteer for Peter J. "PJ" Symons who is running on the Democratic ticket for state senator in the 29th District, said she had never seen a line at 7 a.m. for Haven's East Ward. That ward's voters cast their ballots at the Haven Senior Center, and as of 12:40 p.m. the East Ward had 314 voters stop by.

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