Incumbents on Review: City Commissioner Lisa Deeley

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As Lisa Deeley sees it, she must be doing something right.

Philadelphia City Commission, which she chairs, is charged with administering the machinery of elections, two a year, and with facilitating and encouraging citizens to vote. “And voter turnout has increased in every election since I was elected in 2015,” she stressed.

The daughter of Rhawnhurst grassroots political activist Barbara Deeley, Lisa was taken to the work the polls by her mother as a child. “I know every nook and cranny of the process,” she said.

Deeley has had a busy first term. Working with her fellow Commissioner Al Schmidt, she instituted a $20 pay raise for all of the thousands of pollworkers – up to $120 for Board of Election judges. “It’s still just a symbol,” Deeley said, for a grueling 14-hour day of vital service to our democracy; but it was a welcome gesture.

City Commission does not determine its own budget, by the way. Like any other City department, it has to lobby the mayor and City Council for any increase.

In between elections, Deeley has pursued voter outreach everywhere. She emails every social-studies teacher in the city, offering to register students and to build ballot for student-council elections. She goes to senior programs to register attendees. Twice a year, she works with the Department of Prisons to register inmates. She is active on social media.

This year, City Commission will install the first new voting machines in 20 years. Mandated by the Commonwealth to be ready by the November General Election, they will provide a voter-marked, verifiable paper ballot to secure against hacking. This system was recommended by the City Procurement Department, which decides all such procedures, and it meets federal statutory requirements.

Further reforms are on Deeley’s mind. She wants to experiment with student poll workers, a model that Chicago has pioneered. She advocates same-day voter-registration and absentee ballots with no excuse needed. An electronic poll book would speed the lines, she believes.
Deeley argues that the 2019 vote for City Commissioner is vital to the 2020 presidential vote. That’s a moment when the nation’s electoral systems are once again expected to be under cyberattack by Russia and other hostile foreign agents, as happened in 2016.

“The last thing we need is two inexperienced Democratic City commissioners handling that election,” Deeley insisted. “We will need steady hands at the helm.”

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