Philly commissioners working to get mail-in ballots by Election Day

Pat Loeb
May 28, 2020 - 9:32 am
Pennsylvania ballot

Ian Bush/KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A last-day surge in mail-in ballot applications brought the total number of requests in Philadelphia to about 225,000. City commissioners have already mailed out most of the requested ballots and expect to finish up Thursday, but they’re concerned about getting them back by Election Day.

The number of applications is about 40 times the number of absentee ballots requested in the 2016 primary. In fact, it’s more than half the number of voters who cast ballots overall in that election.

Commission Chair Lisa Deeley says that’s a reflection of the new state law relaxing mail-in ballot rules, as well as COVID-19, which is going to make in-person voting unpleasant, if not actually dangerous.

“For each person that comes and votes in person, that’s one more person that’s interacting with other voters and election board personnel,” she said.

Because of the volume, though, Deeley worries about turn-around time. The ballots must be in by Election Day. 

There was just a week between Tuesday’s application deadline and the June 2 election. Deeley says that puts an awful lot of pressure on a fast turnaround by the postal service.

“The deadlines that the election code provides are so compressed, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for a voter to get their ballot, vote and then get their ballot back to us,” she said.

So Deeley is establishing 10 drop-off locations on Election Day — one in every council district — and commissioner Al Schmidt, working with political watchdog group Committee of Seventy, will have a mobile drop-off unit.

“They will be staffed by city employees to ensure the proper chain of custody of voter ballots,” Deeley said.

She says there’s already one on the south side of City Hall, appropriately enough, near the statue of Octavius Catto, a champion of African-American voting rights.