Philadelphia City Commission Radically Rethinks Upcoming Election

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PHILADELPHIA City Commission Chair Lisa Deeley leads the way to run the most-extraordinary election in history on June 2.

BY TONY WEST
The June 2 primary election will be run in a way that is radically different from every other voting process that has gone before.

This is the word from Philadelphia City Commission Chair Lisa Deeley. In an interview today, she explained how that body, which oversees elections in the city, is moving to grapple with the unprecedented impact of the virus COVID-19.

Step one is to press for maximum mail-in voting.

“Our main concentration so far is to educate and inform voters that they should make every effort to vote by mail from the comfort and safety of home,” Deeley stressed. Under a new law, every voter may now vote by mail for any reason whatsoever.

They can apply online on City Commission’s website, www.philadelphiavotes.com. They can get information on this process by calling the Voter Registration Office at (215) 686-1590.

Two weeks ago, Deeley put forth a motion of the City Commissioners’ meeting to allow City Commission to mail out postage-prepaid mail-in ballots. This way, voters won’t even have to buy a stamp.

“Our professional, dedicated staff have been working continuously to prepare voter registrations and mail-in applications,” Deeley said.

“In addition, we have asked the State to extend the June 2 deadline for receiving mail-in votes. Currently, these must arrive at the Voter Registration Office on that date to be valid (just a June 2 postmark is not enough).” This request is still in the works.

City Commissioners’ meetings are conducted on Zoom at 11:00 a.m. every Wednesday. Anybody may attend online.

The Commission chair’s personal office in City Hall Room 130 remains open. She and her staff are there to serve citizens in person while maintaining correct social distance. Constituents who come to the office in person should wear the same protective equipment that they would in entering any other essential public place of business.

The next stage is to figure out an appropriate way to manage the election day itself. It has always been designed to be run face to face by a team of thousands of modestly paid citizen pollworkers.

“We are in the process of putting forth a plan for election day,” said Deeley. “But prepare for it to be drastically different from the past.” Philadelphia City Commission is studying the work of Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. There, its traditional 1,300 polling places will be reduced to just over 100. Philadelphia will likely take a similar route.

“It is a stark reality that we must make sure that everybody is safe,” Deeley emphasized. “Our volunteer pollworkers on election day tend to belong to the population that is most vulnerable to this virus.”

City Commission expects to produce an official plan for election-day management next few weeks.

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