Concern over backlog in city voter registrations

Posted: October 12, 2012

Good-government group the Committee of Seventy is concerned about a backlog of voter registration applications in the City Commission's office ahead of the Nov. 6 presidential election.

Seventy President Zack Stalberg wrote to city officials that it appears the number of unprocessed registrations may exceed 20,000, "raising the possibility that potential voters will not be registered - or know whether they are registered - in time to vote on Election Day."

"We got calls from a number of voters who were concerned they didn't get their voter registration yet," said Ellen Kaplan, policy director for the Committee of Seventy, adding that it would like to help by either recruiting volunteers to assist commission staff or urging the Commissioners to hire temporary workers that can help tackle the backlog.

Still, the number of applications received for this year's presidential election is lower than years past. The commission's office received 300,000 applications in 2008, compared to 200,000 this year. And on the final night to register to vote, the office received 34,000 applications in 2008 and 24,000 this year.

Tim Dowling, the elections finance and document specialist, said volunteer groups dropped off tens of thousands of applications Oct. 9 - the last day to register to vote, although they had been advised to bring applications in sooner.

City Commissioner Al Schmidt said that when groups turn the forms in late "it creates a real problem. It's something we struggle with every election."

Some voters fill out multiple applications because they still have not received their registration card.

"Every registration form our office receives will be processed, period," Schmidt said.

He said staff work until 10 p.m., seven days a week and for presidential elections the Revenue Department provides data entry clerks who assist with processing forms.

Gregory Irving, the acting voting registration administrator, did not know how many applications remain to be processed but said backlogs are common with presidential elections.

Said Irving: "Everyone who turned in and submitted an application before the deadline will be able to vote in the coming election."

Contact Jan Ransom at ransomj@phillynews.com or 215-854-5218. Follow her on Twitter @Jan_Ransom.

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