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October 21, 2022

Counting the Nov. 8 Vote: It ain’t over ‘til it’s over

Harrisburg’s NPR station, WITF, reports that PA county election officials are gearing up for a ballot-counting “marathon,” beginning at 7 am on Election Day, when state law permits them to begin processing mail-in ballots. Most won’t stop until they’re finished because another state law, passed earlier this year, enables the state to claw back grants issued to county election boards if they pause their counts. Still, it’s unlikely that enough votes will be counted on Election Night to produce definitive results in close races. So be patient; it’s merely the system working. “That time between the polls being closed and all the votes being counted is dangerous,” C70 Al Schmidt told the L.A. Times. “The longer it goes on, the more likely you are to have people who have been deceived by all these lies act out.” 

Another 2020? Not likely. Turnout will be lower than in the 2020 presidential election, so there will be fewer mail-in votes to count, and counties are better equipped to count them now. 

Speeding things up: According to The Inquirer, the Philadelphia City Commissioners might have to scale back a process they use to catch double votes (cast by voters who returned a mail-in ballot, then voted at the polls) because doing so requires stopping the count, subjecting them to possible financial penalties. But other checks exist to prevent double voting, and none were found in the past three elections.

Election in Philly: Don’t forget the ballot questions

News coverage is dominated by the state’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races, but Philadelphia voters shouldn’t overlook two proposed amendments to the Home Rule Charter. One would give graduates of career and technical education (CTE) programs a preference on civil-service exams for city jobs similar to the one already enjoyed by military veterans, and children and grandchildren of police officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty. The second would shift the city’s two airports (PHL and Northeast Philadelphia) out of the Commerce Department and into a new Department of Aviation. Airport officials have stressed the change would streamline decision making, better enabling the airports to hire staff, procure materials and equipment, and finish projects, ultimately yielding better service for customers.

Registration deadline is Monday! This Monday, Oct. 24, for new registrations and updates (e.g., address or name changes). Register online.

Want a mail-in ballot? Request one ASAP! Requested ballots are being sent on a rolling basis, but the application deadline, Nov. 1, is less than two weeks away. Voters who request ballots near the deadline will have little time to return them by the deadline at 8 pm on Nov. 8. (Postmarks are not honored.) Learn more about mail-in voting and request a mail-in ballot online.

Return your ballot ASAP: There’s still time to return your ballot by USPS, but ballots can also be returned via drop box or to a county election office. See the return options for Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery, Philadelphia counties, and for all of PA’s 67 counties. Track the status of your mail-in application or ballot.

Caught Our Eye

C70 CEO Al Schmidt expressed concerns about the upcoming midterms this week on CBS Evening News: “It seems quaint to think that not long ago we had winners and losers in elections. And regardless of party, the loser conceded. What we’re seeing now is a real trend across the country where candidates are seeking to make an excuse before a single vote is cast, and seeking to disregard legitimate election results simply because the voters didn’t choose them.”

Eye on City Hall

On Our Radar

A vote-by-mail date for SCOPA? PA and national Republican groups petitioned the PA Supreme Court to rule that county election officials can’t count undated or incorrectly dated mail-in ballots in the Nov. 8 election. So far, the Wolf administration hasn’t budged from its position that they should be counted.

FBI warns of threats against poll workers: And as C70 CEO Al Schmidt said to Axios Philadelphia, such threats can lead "experienced election officials to leave their jobs and be replaced by less experienced administrators who are more likely to make mistakes in an environment where every mistake is perceived to be intentional and malicious."

Hands across the aisle: The PA Senate State Government Committee unanimously approved legislation that would require counties to adopt specific safeguards for the transportation of ballots.

Get Involved

Urge Lawmakers to Repeal Closed Primaries

On Oct. 26, the House State Government Committee will, for the first time in history, hold a vote on legislation to repeal closed primaries. But while just holding the vote is a notable step the outcome is obviously bigger. Send an email urging committee members to vote to advance HB 1369 out of committee. Current law forces voters to register as a Republican or a Democrat to participate in primaries, even though all voters fund party primaries with their tax dollars. With roughly 1.3 million PA voters unfairly shut out of our primary process, it's time to repeal Pennsylvania’s closed primaries. Learn more.

Build Your Own Ballot

Seventy’s nonpartisan Build Your Ballot voter guide has plenty of information about all the candidates and questions on ballots throughout PA. Just type in your address to pull up an over view of your ballot.


Elections in Focus: Processing and Counting of Ballots

Wed., Oct. 26, 6:30 - 7:30pm | Zoom

Committee of Seventy CEO Al Schmidt and former Mercer County election official Jeff Greenburg are joined by Chester County Voter Services Director Karen Barsoum to discuss the various steps involved in processing and counting ballots. Pennsylvania counties in recent years have made significant investments in staff and equipment to efficiently and accurately process returned mail-in ballots, but the work continues to pose challenges for county offices. The panel will also discuss what the public should expect the week of the election as published vote counts are updated on a regular basis. This conversation will be moderated by Jonathan Lai of The Philadelphia Inquirer and is co-sponsored by nonpartisan organizations All Voting is Local, Committee of Seventy and Pitt Cyber. RSVP.

Vote Early Day

Fri., Oct. 28, 12 noon - 3pm | Philadelphia City Hall Plaza

Join the Committee of Seventy, Circadium Circus Arts, PA Youth Vote, League of Women Voters of Philadelphia and more for an afternoon of performances, free food, and more to celebrate National Vote Early Day at City Hall. The Philadelphia City Commissioners will be on hand to help interested voters apply for and receive their mail-in ballots, and answer any questions voters may have. Voters will also be able to drop off their completed ballots.

Elections in Focus: Auditing and Certification of Elections

Wed., Nov. 2, 6:30 - 7:30pm | Zoom

Committee of Seventy CEO Al Schmidt and former Mercer County election official Jeff Greenburg are joined by PA Department of State Dep. Secretary Jonathan Marks and Liz Howard of the Brennan Center to discuss the steps involved in auditing and certifying election results in Pennsylvania. Statistical samples of counted ballots required by state law are supplemented by risk-limiting audits to guarantee the accuracy of election outcomes and verify winners. This conversation will be moderated by Jonathan Lai of The Philadelphia Inquirer and is co-sponsored by nonpartisan organizations All Voting is Local, Committee of Seventy and Pitt Cyber. RSVP.

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