"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."It would be encouraging to believe that this is a normal, everyday glitch in the system. Just part of the typical percentage of mistakes that afflict not only elections but also other events in which vast numbers of people are involved. But the back story is, to give it a generous label, irksome:
Some poll workers are not even instructing people that they can file provisional ballots, and other voters are reportedly just walking away in frustration.
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."How many of those 20,000 actually got processed, and got processed accurately, seems at the point to be anybody's guess. But at least one voter wasn't too happy about her situation, 27-year-old Caitlin Conyngham:
"I went today to go vote and I was not on the roll at all," says Conyngham, who votes at West Philadelphia High School. "They had to call the city and I spoke with someone from [Commission Chair] Stephanie Singer's office. She said, 'This is really strange. I have you as a registered voter...but you don't have a polling place attached to your name.'"You would think that after all the battles in and out of court this year that GOP-dominated Pennsylvania authorities underwent over their restrictive voter-ID requirements, the last thing they would want the nation to see would be chaos at the polling stations, in Philly or elsewhere. Or maybe that's a message they would like to spread.
Conyngham was instructed to cast a provisional ballot—and she observed another person being ordered to do the same. It was a chaotic scene, she says.
For voters in the Pennsylvania commonwealth and any other state where chaos seems to be in charge, we've got an important message: Don't let the stories turn you away. Frustrated, exasperated or infuriated, STAY IN LINE. Cast that ballot even if it is provisional. The time for reckoning with officials over this and other matters will come.
But today voting is what matters even if you're given a hard time about it. Also be sure to report what happened. Here are some numbers you can call or websites you can visit for that purpose.