The exhaustive voter-registration efforts that marked this year's election may have resulted in more voters than Philadelphia's polling places can handle, according to the Committee of Seventy, a Philadelphia political watchdog group.
In 16 voting divisions of Philadelphia - concentrated around University City, Center City and Northeast Philadelphia - the number of registered voters exceeds the 1,200 limit set by the state.
Three of those divisions are near Penn's campus.
The number of registered voters in those areas threatens to overcrowd the polls on Nov. 4, according to Committee of Seventy's policy director, Sarah Stevenson.
"There will certainly be lines," she said. "I hope that the lines move fast, but I can't predict what a line means to different individuals - in theory a long line will certainly discourage people."
But Philadelphia Deputy Election Commissioner Fred Voight is not worried about the situation.
"We are not concerned because we have anticipated this and advised a lot of the election boards to set up a minimum of two lines," he said. "If they made voters wait in one line, yes, it would be a problem."
Stevenson urged people to vote during off-peak hours, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., because doing so will shrink everyone's wait.
The three over-registered divisions on or around Penn's campus are the ninth, 18th and 22nd divisions in the city's 27th ward.
The number of registered voters at Penn may be deceptively higher than the number who show up to vote on election day.
"If people don't actively cancel their registration after they move away, the city might not be aware that they moved," said Stephanie Simon, a College senior and president of Penn Leads the Vote's executive board.
Simon said she does not "foresee someone who's conscientious about going to their polling place having a problem," because polls open before classes at 7 a.m. and because anyone who's in line when polls close at 8 p.m. will still be able to vote.
The city's most over-registered division is in Center City and had 3,400 registered voters as of April.
But that division contains several homeless shelters, Voight said, and "it usually happens that a lot of homeless don't turn up to vote."
The city has given the division five extra voting machines to expedite the flow of voters on election day, he said.
Yet 3,400 registered voters is still a "tremendous amount of voting activity for one precinct to experience in one day," according to Harry Cook, an expert on election-incident monitoring in Pennsylvania.
He said the city should also be allocating back-up paper ballots to each polling station "in case the number of machines is not enough to handle the flow of voters."
"Unless people are able to vote by way of emergency paper ballots, they could very well expect to be standing in line for an hour and a half to three hours" if there is extremely high turnout, Cook said.
On Oct. 23, a coalition of Pennsylvania voters and civil rights groups filed a lawsuit against the state's Secretary of the Commonwealth, charging that various factors - including the number of newly registered voters - "have converged to create a perfect storm that, left unaddressed, unquestionably will result in the disenfranchisement of substantial numbers of citizens."Comments powered by Disqus
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