Butkovitz: 2012 election 'a failure'

Posted: June 13, 2013

INADEQUATE poll-worker training and a glitch in the printing of voter rolls are the main culprits for the uptick in provisional ballots cast at Philadelphia polls in the 2012 election, according to a report from City Controller Alan Butkovitz.

"The election system has to do better," Butkovitz said. "To those people, and to people who are voting for the first time and the concept that every vote counts, it was a failure. And commissioners have to do better and the Department of State has to do better."

A record 27,000 provisional ballots were cast in Philly's 2012 election, more than double the number cast in the 2008 presidential election. Many of those voters were forced to vote provisionally for legitimate reasons: 9,000 went to the wrong polling place, and 7,600 were ineligible voters.

But about 9,700 of those votes should have been cast on the regular voting machines, according to Butkovitz. That group includes 4,800 voters whose names did not appear at their polling places because of a printing error with the state's voter rolls, and 4,900 voters who were properly listed in the books but could not be located by poll workers.

One of Butkovitz's recommendations is to increase the pay for poll-worker training from $20 to $50.

City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, chairwoman for the 2012 election, said she agrees that poll-worker training is an issue, although there is little the commission can do without increased incentives, like higher pay.

"I have always advocated for better poll-worker training and I think we could do a much better job, really, with the whole ecosystem of poll-worker training, and I agree that we need to do more," she said.

The report was unable to identify the cause of the other group of questionable provisional ballots: voters who did not appear in the books, most of whom were late registrations that would be in the "supplemental" pages printed just before the election.

The city prints them for each polling site from the state's registration system. In the report, the sides appear to be pointing the finger at one another, with the City Commission saying that there was a "glitch" in the database and the Department of State saying that the city used the wrong "parameters" to pull from it.

A "fact-finding" team appointed by Mayor Nutter is expected to release a separate report on the provisional ballots any day.

On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN


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