Info for the May 18 Primary Election

[The following information is based on an email issued May 1 to members and friends of Open Wards Philadelphia. Used with permission.]

With the May 18 primary coming up fast, please share the information below with your networks! Forward away!!!

CHECK YOUR CURRENT STATUS

  • Check your current status. Remember that only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote for candidates in primary elections. All voters regardless of party affiliation can vote on ballot questions.

WHO CAN VOTE BY MAIL

  • Voting by mail is safe, secure and convenient, with the benefit of providing time to review and complete your ballot at home. Any registered PA voter is allowed to request a Mail-in Ballot. (Don’t bother with the Absentee!)
  • Request a Mail-in Ballot ASAP. Applications must be received by Tuesday, May 11, at 5 pm. Postmarks don’t count.  Voters who apply online must already be registered and can use either their PA driver’s license number or the last four digits of their social security number. Learn more.
  • Make sure to enter your email with your Mail-in Ballot application, and you will get updates as it is processed and as your ballot goes from your county to you and back to be counted. Check the status of your Mail-in Ballot.

HOW TO COMPLETE YOUR MAIL-IN BALLOT

Follow these steps carefully:

  1. Fill out your ballot: Read the instructions and make your selections in every race and question on the ballot, front and back. Don’t vote for more candidates than you are allowed.
  2. Pack and seal it: Put your ballot in the plain secrecy envelope that says “Official Election Ballot” and seal. Then put the secrecy envelope in the larger ballot-return envelope with “Business Reply Mail” on the front.
  3. Sign it and date it and seal it: Complete the “Voter’s Declaration” on the ballot-return envelope. Make sure to sign AND date it. Seal the ballot-return envelope. Ballots will not be counted if the Voter’s Declaration is unsigned or undated, according to a November court ruling.
  4. Return it by mail or dropbox:
    1. By mail – Do this EARLY. Ballots must be received by 8 pm on May 18 to be counted. Postmarks do not count. A grace period, available for the Presidential Election last November, no longer applies.
    2. At a dropbox – Drop off your voted ballot at one of fourteen convenient, monitored 24/7, secure dropboxes. Find a list at PhiladelphiaVotes.com.
    3. In person – The Board of Elections office in City Hall, Room 140 is currently open for in-person mail-ballot voting. Voters may request a mail-in ballot in-person, receive it, vote, and return it all during the same visit. Room 140 is open from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday and on Election Day until 8pm. Voters should enter through the south gate of City Hall.

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT THIS ELECTION?

A lot! We recommend checking out the following resources:

Ten Good Reasons To Vote Early In Philly

The following article is written by Jane Century, an active participant of the Philly Voter Engagement Network. She wrote this for her neighborhood listserv. It is reprinted with permission. So, if you have a mail-in ballot, complete it, then bring it to a nearby Satellite Election Office or drop box locations around Philadelphia. Other voter information is available on the City Commissioners website.

In the past month, I debated whether to surrender my mail-in ballot and vote in person.  But info I gleaned from elected officials and other reliable sources helped me confirm my decision to drop off my mail-in ballot at a satellite voting center last week.  I realize this is a personal decision for each of us.  If you are still undecided, consider the following:

1.            Mail-in votes will begin to be processed sooner than machine voting.  Philly has acquired state-of-the-art ballot scanners that can scan 16,000 ballots an hour.  The City will begin opening and scanning ballots as soon as the polls open at 7am on Nov 3 and run continuously – 24/7 thereafter.   This means that by the time machine ballot counts begin to be released to the media at 9 – 10 pm or later on Election Night, as many as 240,000 paper ballots may already be tabulated in Philadelphia alone.  If the vast majority favor one candidate, it can be projected that the remainder will follow suit.  This data will be reported as it becomes available. The President will find ways to cast doubt on everything, no matter what.

2.            COVID safety at the polls.  Polling places are indoor spaces. Voters will be standing six feet apart indoors and out and my face long waits.  Voters will be asked to arrive with a mask and will be provided hand sanitizer and a single glove for handling the pen for their signature and touching the touch screen, which can only be cleaned with a microfiber cloth.  Voters are not legally required to cooperate with either the mask or glove policy. 

3.            Voting machine equipment is complex.  Our new touchscreen voting machines are still relatively new.  They have complex mechanical and digital functions that also generate paper ballots after each vote is cast.  Any equipment failures can slow down the process. 

4.            Voting in person takes time.  Unlike voting from home on a paper ballot at your kitchen table, many voters are still unfamiliar with touch screen voting and how to proofread the paper ballot that gets printed after each vote.  This year, there are also four ballot initiatives. Many people arrive at the polls without having reviewed these ahead of time. If people accidentally “spoil” their ballot while voting on the machine and need to redo it, decide to surrender their paper ballot and vote in person or need to complete a provisional ballot for any reason, this will slow the process for everyone.

5.            Lots of new poll workers are being hired. This may lengthen the process.  Many older, experienced poll workers have stepped away from serving this year due to concerns about COVID.  The City received applications from 20,000 people willing to serve as poll workers to fill 8,000+ positions.  The Board of Elections is currently working its way through a long list of returning and new volunteers and trying to fill vacant positions as quickly as possible. While all who serve must attend or watch a training, many polling places will be staffed by people with no prior experience.  They must come prepared to oversee safety protocols for COVID, answer a myriad of questions and possibly resolve disputes arising from poll watchers. 

6.            Mail-in ballots are the perfect antidote to threats of voter intimidation.  In the face of calls by the White House for an “army of volunteers” to watch over polling places, Mayor Kenney has been clear that voter intimidation tactics will not be tolerated.  But if everyone has already cast their ballots safely ahead of time, and there are no voters waiting in line to intimidate, well, you get the point.

7.            Early voting is totally in your control.  Once you complete your ballot, you can drop it off any one of 17 satellite centers, knowing it will be stored safely and securely, under guard.

8.            The sooner people complete and turn in a mail-in ballot, the easier it will be to prep them for efficient scanning.  And the less congestion there will be at the polls.  Don’t put it off to the last minute.

9.            There are now 17 satellite voting centers.  If you already have your ballot, you can fill it out at home and drop it off in a minute. If not, you can request one and complete it there. (If your ballot has not arrived, but your application has been confirmed online, you can cancel it in person at any satellite center, any time up to 8pm Nov 3, and obtain a new one to submit right there.  See: https://www.phila.gov/2020-09-29-visit-a-satellite-election-office-today/

10.        Peace of mind.  Once you know your ballot has been safely cast, you can put your energies to other uses to help support a safe, fair election for all.

Voter Engagement Weblinks

Here are voter engagement links I’ve been collecting since March and keeping on a sheet of paper.

Vote.org
A registered nonprofit organization. “Find everything you need to vote in our state election centers.”

When We All Vote
Michelle Obama is one of the co-chairs.

Outvote
Join campaigns, find allies, take action. Download the app.

Philly We Rise
A resource for individuals and organizations.

FairmountVotes.com
FairmountVotes harnesses the volunteer power of neighbors in Fairmount, Francisville, Spring Garden and Brewerytown to increase voter turnout and build a more informed electorate.

Vote Tripling PAC
A Los Angeles-based nonprofit research organization that designs, tests & disseminates free behavioral science-based tactics that spark non-activists to get 3 friends to vote. They simply invent free tactics that amplify the voices of ordinary Americans. Vote Tripling is a pledge to get 3 friends to vote. Site for progressives only.

HeadCount
A non-partisan organization that uses the power of music to register voters and promote participation in democracy.

PADems Voting Center
A page with link to their Voter Protection Toolkit and their Voter Assistance Hotline 833-728-6837 (833-PAVOTES)

22nd Ward Open Caucus
It aims to strengthen and energize the Democratic Party by promoting transparency and democratic processes within the Ward; engaging in political action to increase voter information, registration, and turnout; and facilitating the exchange of skills and knowledge among committeepeople.

Office of the City Commissioners
Includes a link to download Vote From Home Flyer and tons of other useful information.

I Will Vote
Has a simple screen so you can make sure you’re registered to vote, then choose how you’re going to vote this year or call their voter hotline.

apps.philadelphiavotes.com
A quick link to apply for a PA mail-in ballot.

Shape Up the Vote
A non-partisan campaign to turn out the vote in 2020 by activating barbershops as voter engagement hubs in their communities.

Rock the Vote
The experts for registering young voters, since 1990.

Turn PA Blue
Actively working to turn the Pennsylvania State Legislature blue, district by district.

Vote for Homes Coalition
Since 1999, Vote for Homes! has registered more than 16,000 voters and mobilized thousands to vote.

Indivisible: NW Philly A local organization formed to resist Trump’s authoritarian agenda.

The Poll Worker Caucus This group is for poll workers and others who work to support the election and voting process in polling sites in Philadelphia and Southeast Pennsylvania.

Northwest Poll Workers Caucus A non-partisan space for poll workers in Northwest Philadelphia to gather and proactively identify and advocate for best practices in preparation for the November 2020 General Election.