Election season can be an exciting time, when emotions run high and patriotism is at its finest. On Tuesday, many enthusiastic students arrived at the polls ready to vote only to be told that their names were not in the roll books. No one is more disappointed about this than Penn Leads the Vote.
PLTV strived to ensure that all eligible students had the opportunity to vote on Election Day. We pushed hard for registration before the deadline, tabling aggressively throughout campus. We educated students about the correct on-campus polling locations. PLTV was the only student group to legally “man the booths” as official poll workers under the elected or city-appointed judges of elections at five on-campus polling locations. We also obtained certificates for our poll watchers, who guarded against fraudulent voting practices and recorded student voters throughout the day.
We’ve always aimed to make voting as easy as possible for Penn students. However, even after months of preparation, elements of the process remained out of our control. This is something we would like to address.
PLTV takes extreme care in handling all registration forms we receive. We keep the forms in locked boxes until they are hand-delivered directly to the Philadelphia City Commissioner’s Office. Our volunteers made trips to City Hall almost daily as we neared Election Day.
Once the forms leave our hands, however, they are the sole responsibility of the City Commissioner’s Office. What happens to them there is beyond our control.
The City Commissioner’s Office was unable to process the high volume of incoming registration forms in time for the election — leaving polling records (i.e., the rollbook of all registered voters in a division) incomplete and inaccurate. This was a citywide problem not confined to Penn’s campus.
At all polling locations — without exception — a person must be registered in order to vote. The confusion on Tuesday occurred when students who had registered did not appear in the rollbooks and/or the public online database. Many never received their voter registration card in the mail. In such instances, the judge of elections at each division has the final authority. Poll workers and watchers must defer to their judge’s instructions under the law.
While policies between polling locations on Tuesday were inconsistent, workers made their best efforts to assist the judges of elections as instructed, providing assistance to voters who needed to confirm their registration or find their polling location. Election Day may not have gone as smoothly as anticipated, but PLTV did its very best to aid as many students as possible in light of a difficult situation. The mishandling of this election in Philadelphia has caused a citywide reaction culminating to Wednesday’s ousting of City Commissioner Chair Stephanie Singer by the other two City Commissioners, Anthony Clark and Al Schmidt.
We are extremely proud of the Penn community’s commitment to the democratic process and are excited that so many of you turned out to vote on Tuesday. We thank you immensely for your patience and performance in the election and hope you will continue leading the vote in the future.
The Penn Leads the Vote Executive Board consists of College juniors Russell Abdo & Abby Case and College seniors Abby Tran & David Weiss. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.