Philly has “all the pieces in place” for election, officials say

Mayor Jim Kenney and City Commissioners Lisa Deeley and Omar Sabir speak to reporters Monday, Oct. 19, outside City Hall.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Now is really the homestretch.

People lined up Monday, snaking around City Hall, to get into one of Philadelphia’s satellite election offices, hours before the deadline for voters to register for the Nov. 3 election.

A billboard truck featuring an anti-Trump message that stopped in front of the area was promptly told to move along.

Former President Barack Obama is expected to stump in Philadelphia for Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday.

Mayor Jim Kenney dropped off his completed mail-in ballot, and officials assured reporters that the city is ready to conduct an election, even during a pandemic, as Pennsylvania again figures to play a key role in who wins the White House.

“We have all the pieces in place to have a smooth election, and we are confident that that is what we are going to have,” said City Commissioner Lisa Deeley, who chairs the three-person board that oversees voting in Philadelphia.

President Donald Trump, during his first and thus far only debate with Biden, insinuated that election fraud is rampant in the city with his infamous “bad things happen in Philadelphia” line.

Trump has encouraged his supporters to monitor polling places, raising some concerns about voter intimidation.

“This is an extremely important election and people, I think, understand that,” Kenney said Monday. “I think it will go off well. We’ll be prepared if something goes sideways, but I’m not expecting it.”

Mayor Jim Kenney walks his mail-in ballot to the satellite election office at City Hall Monday, Oct. 19. PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Deeley said it would be “helpful” if state legislation was approved to permit pre-canvassing, which would allow her office to begin counting votes prior to Election Day.

The volume of mail-in ballots has caused local election officials to lobby for the change; however, according to the Associated Press, the bill appears to have stalled in Harrisburg.

Results, Deeley has said, probably won’t be finalized on Nov. 3.

In addition, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last month that ballots should be accepted through Friday, Nov. 6, as long as there is no evidence, such as a postmark, they were mailed after Election Day.

“We’re going to get the ballots in and count it as quickly and as accurately as possible,” Deeley said.

Despite early fears that the city would not have enough poll workers for in-person voting, City Commissioner Omar Sabir said he is confident all 8,500 spots will be filled. So far, about 7,600 people have been hired for Election Day.

Monday was the last day to sign up to vote, and officials planned to keep the City Commissioners office on Columbus Boulevard open until midnight for last-minute registrants.

Residents have until Oct. 27 to request a mail-in ballot, either online, in-person at a satellite election office or through a paper application.

Five satellite offices — Riverview Place, Joseph H. Brown School, Harding Middle School, Mastbaum High School and Feltonville Intermediate School — opened Monday, but they are only drop-off locations where voters can submit their mail-in ballots.

A woman drops off her completed mail-in ballot at a collection box near the City Hall elections office Monday, Oct. 19. PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

There are 12 full-service sites, including Julia Ward School and Alain Locke School, which opened Saturday.

At the full-service sites, voters can apply for their mail-in ballot, receive it, fill it out and return it in one visit. People can also drop off their completed ballots. Residents can go to any of the offices, not just the one closest to where they live.

Three 24/7 dropboxes have also been installed — on the south side of City Hall, at 520 N. Columbus Blvd, and at 2027 Fairmount Ave., by Eastern State Penitentiary.

Officials on Monday again urged people voting by mail to put their completed ballot in the smaller “secrecy” envelope, which they should then put inside the large “declaration” envelope. Residents should fill out and sign the outside of the declaration envelope.

For more information about voting, including mail-in ballot applications, go to www.philadelphiavotes.com or www.pavoterservices.pa.gov.

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