Voter roll confusion in Philly forces thousands to cast provisional ballots


Confusion dominated at the polls today, forcing thousands of residents who were properly registered to vote by provisional ballot. “We’re trying to document it,” Ellen Kaplan of political watchdog Committee of Seventy said this afternoon. “We have heard about it at a number of polling places and we’re trying to we’re just trying to figure out how to deal with the problem.”

Committee of Seventy attempted to seek legal relief at the Court of Elections to allow some of the voters who were improperly issued provisional ballots to vote on machines, but lawyers for both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama’s campaigns chose not to pursue the issue under the premise that provisional ballots carry equal legal weight. Ideally, judges of elections should check computer rolls for the most updated registered voter lists, Seventy said, but many polling places don’t have computers.

Attorneys for both sides said that the snafu was a result of a backlog in processing voter registration forms due to under staffing, compounded by street canvassers who handed in large stacks of the documents immediately prior to the registration deadline.

The problem also emerged in student-heavy voting precincts, according to consumer advocacy group PennPIRG, who began receiving reports this morning that at least several hundred students at Pittsburgh and Temple universities were being turned away from the polling places listed on their voter identification cards because their names were left off the paper rolls. Many of them were only issued provisional ballots after they called in attorneys, and even after that, the confusion led to long lines that further jeopardized voter turnout and to provisional ballot shortages in several locations.

“It’s really disheartening for students who are voting for the first time to be turned away or given a provisional ballot, as if by participating in our democratic system they were doing something wrong,” PennPIRG student organizer Ryan Molson said. “Much of this confusion seems like it could have been avoided by modernizing our registration systems.”

In one case, students living in the 1300 and Temple Towers dorms at Temple University were directed by their voter registration cards and the state website to a polling place at 10th and Oxford streets, where they were not on the rolls and had to vote by provisional ballot. It appears the city did not properly update its rolls after redistricting moved those dorms to a new precinct, according to PennPIRG. At least four other polling locations at Temple reported similar problems. Students also said that poll watchers were kicked out of a Temple polling location at 16th and Berks streets.

At Pittsburgh State University, the situation was similar, with students given provisional ballots only after lawyers stepped in after they tried to vote at the locations on their voter registration cards. There, PennPIRG said poll watchers collecting those voters’ names and handing out the number of the national voter protection hotline number were told by poll workers to leave the premises. At least five other polling locations at the University of Pittsburgh reported similar problems.


Boston Strong: One year on from Boston Marathon…

  For more than a century the Boston Marathon has been an even centred around sportsmanship, endurance and athleticism, but there's no denying the face…


Monday is the deadline to register for Pennsylvania…

If residents want to vote in the May primary, which includes a vote for a new City Council member, today is the deadline to register.


Miss America thinks school should reconsider discipline of…

A Pa. student was suspended for asking Miss America to prom.


Aria Health Torresdale workers caught selling prescription drugs

Two Aria Health at Torresdale employees were fired amid accusations they sold prescription drugs out of the Northeast Philadelphia campus.


‘Mad Men’ recap: Season 7, Episode 2, ‘A…

Peggy and Lou are horrible, Bert's racist, Don is honest(ish) and Roger and Pete are frustrated. "A Day's Work" not quite worthy of "This Will Be Our Year."


'Game of Thrones' recap: Season 4, Episode 3,…

The problem with the devil you know is that ignoring them doesn’t mean they simply lie in wait. It allows them time to do things…


Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…


Ray Emery steps up in Flyers’ Game 2…

Sure, he allowed two goals in the Rangers’ first four shots Sunday afternoon, but it’s about how you start, not how you finish.


Flyers come from behind, even series with Rangers

The Flyers overcame a two-goal deficit to get a much-needed win at Madison Square Garden Sunday.


Phillies get set for four against the Dodgers

The Phillies will face tough starting pitching out west against the Dodgers this week.


Phillies notebook: Cole Hamels returns this week

The Phillies should receive a big boost when Cole Hamels returns during the Dodgers series.


Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…


Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…


Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…


4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.