Political Animal


November 06, 2012 3:36 PM Chaos in Philly?

By Ed Kilgore

As a supplement to Simon’s earlier roundup of voting-place irregularities, check out this alarming report from the Philadelphia City Paper:

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.

An isolated incident? Perhaps not:

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.”

And then there’s this:

The Commissioners, who have spent the year engaged in fights with one another, have a phone number with a busy signal.

I’ve been warning for a good while that polling-place chaos, whether caused by design or by incidental incompetence, can become as big a tool of voter suppression as the more obvious devices. With Romney apparently going all out for an upset in Pennsylvania, vote-suppressing irregularities in Philly are not a small deal.

UPDATE: The Columbus Dispatch has at least one report of high numbers of provisional ballots being required in that city as well.

UPDATE II: On the other hand, in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), turnout dynamo for Obama in Ohio, voting seems orderly and over half of registered voters had cast ballots by 2:30 PM (that includes early voters, of course).

UPDATE III: Getting back to the Keystone State, turnout seems to be strong and voting orderly in the SW PA Obama stronghold of Pittsburgh.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ron Byers on November 06, 2012 3:50 PM:

    Yep and there is a polling machine in PA that was discovered to change Obama votes to Romney.

    Before we become too overwrought lets take a deep breath and remember that issues of the type described above arise every election. Most of them seem giant at the time, but rarely do they change the outcome of the election. Palm Beach County in 2000 was the exception and not the rule. This race shouldn't be that close.

  • Hue and Cry on November 06, 2012 3:54 PM:

    Not surprised at the least. Voter fraud is actively happening in Pennsylvania.
    Here is what openly represents the state in voter fraud intentions from Republican Tea Partiers who wrangled control from Democrats just before Ed Rendell left.
    As I wrote before, I had bad experiences at the polls.
    Here is Mike Tarsai--typical politician in PA telling you the Voter ID Law they wanted is intended to elect MItt Romney. (That law was held back by the courts here)

    P.S. They cut reasonable programs for the social good to an extreme degree-- and gave tons to corporations in this tea party ruled state. This state is as crooked as that stick that fell from the tree out front. Thanks.


  • SecularAnimist on November 06, 2012 4:16 PM:

    Ron Byers wrote: "Palm Beach County in 2000 was the exception and not the rule."

    Palm Beach County had little to do with the outcome of the 2000 election in Florida.

    Tens of thousands of eligible voters, mostly African-Americans in Democratic-leaning districts, were disenfranchised and unable to even cast ballots after Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris conspired to fraudulently identify them as felons and purge them from the voter rolls prior to Election Day.

    And in Ohio in 2004, then Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (who like Harris was both in charge of running the state's elections AND was chair of the state's Bush/Cheney campaign committee) also conspired to disenfranchise voters and manipulate the ballots, thereby handing Ohio -- and the election -- to Bush.

    And the Republican campaign to steal this election using the same techniques as Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 is nationwide, and dwarfs those earlier efforts. This "Chaos in Philly" is just one small tip of a very large, very ugly iceberg.

    Obama had better win by a massive margin, because if it's close, the Republicans are going to steal this one too.

    Nate Silver's prediction that Obama has a 90 percent chance of winning is all well and good -- but it is based on polls, which is to say on voter INTENT, and cannot take into account the effects of voter disenfranchisement and fraud.

  • T2 on November 06, 2012 4:18 PM:

    isn't it interesting that voting seems to be going just fine in states that are NOT battleground states? Yet Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio - all hotly contested and crucial to Romney, are a mess.

  • Steve LaBonne on November 06, 2012 4:29 PM:

    Yet Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio - all hotly contested and crucial to Romney, are a mess.

    Interesting indeed. It couldn't possibly be due to something else they have in common, could it? Hmmm....

  • EdgewaterJoe on November 06, 2012 4:38 PM:

    ... and yet, reports are holding that turnout in Philly (as in Cleveland) are starting to EXCEED 2008 totals.

    This could be a much shorter night than the pundits are thinking (someone check poor Dan Rather's tummy) ...

  • c u n d gulag on November 06, 2012 4:47 PM:

    I've been saying this for years - we need a VOTER'S Rights Act, where ALL 50 states have the same feckin' rules!

    And if that involves photo ID, then fine, give people the next two years to get the proper ID.

    Anything has got to be better than this chaotic system of 50 different states, many of whom have completely different rules and regulations.

  • Hue and Cry on November 06, 2012 5:12 PM:

    Not so orderly in Pennsylvania, Ed:

    Homestead is a community with diversity, and with Pitt, Carlow, and Carnegie Mellon students.
    PA is definitely having problems with voting--



  • Ol Froth on November 06, 2012 5:18 PM:

    At my polling place in Allegheny County, poll workers weren't aski9ng for ID at all, unles someone was a first time voter.

  • Renai on November 06, 2012 5:23 PM:

    Perhaps allowing one party sole control over electoral processes in any given state is asking too much of human nature?

    Is it too much to have D, R, and I represented in the preparations and events of elections so that even the suggestion of impropriety doesn't waft across the land?

    I shudder to think whose phone number capcha is giving me, the full 10 digits. Guess I am supposed to call someone who cares...

  • Ol Froth on November 06, 2012 5:28 PM:

    At my polling place in Allegheny County, poll workers weren't asking for ID at all, unles someone was a first time voter.

  • back to being anonymous on November 06, 2012 6:04 PM:

    In Westmoreland County, city of 14,000, in southwestern PA--they were intimidating about voter id.

    Kind of hard on women in PA. as well:


  • joanneinDenver on November 06, 2012 6:14 PM:

    I understood that the Democrats had lawyers at the ready to deal with these outrageous incidents. Ed, is there a legal response to these problems?