“Oh, I’m going to vote. It doesn’t matter,” said Smith, a 59-year-old Democrat who believes the court’s decision is part of an attempt to stop people from voting. Said. “I’m going to fight back.”
Over the past two years, multiple judges have ruled that mail-in ballots returned on time by Pennsylvania voters should be counted even if they don’t have a date on the outside of the envelope. Republicans sued in October to reverse the policy, claiming it violated state law. Last Tuesday, they won a favorable verdict from the state Supreme Court, ordering the county not to count undated or inaccurate ballots.
The decision sparked extensive volunteer work to ensure voters who had already returned their ballots understood that their votes would not count unless they took action.
Nowhere has that effort been made more intensely than in Philadelphia. On Saturday, city officials released the names of his more than 2,000 voters who returned defective ballots, urging them to come to city hall and cast new ballots within days of Election Day. Community activists and volunteers from the Democratic Party and the Working Family Party began knocking on people’s doors, calling them, and sending messages to spread the information.
On Monday, lines to cast alternative votes at city hall meandered outside and into the building’s courtyard as volunteers provided snacks and bottled water, according to voters and activists.
“I’m lucky. If I had waited in line, I could have done this,” said Melissa Sherwood, a 25-year-old Democrat who works from home. “If you couldn’t afford it, you might have seen the line and said no,” she said.
Pennina Bernstein said she was thousands of miles away in Colorado when friends and strangers contacted her via Facebook to find out that her ballot was undated and would not count. She immediately planned to return to Pennsylvania to vote.
Bernstein, 40, added that he was not wealthy and had spent a lot of money traveling.
Some volunteers said they spoke with many other voters.
Mobilizing to reach out to voters is a decentralized, ad-hoc effort, carried out by many different groups. Some voters told The Washington Post that they had been contacted multiple times about the vote, while others said they had heard nothing until they received a call from a reporter.
“I’m afraid there are probably thousands of Philadelphia citizens who legally tried to vote. Their votes don’t count.”
Abella said the efforts by his group and others were grassroots mobilizations to make up for the government’s lack of efforts to reach out to voters individually. “It’s a real shame that this is how democracy works in America in 2022,” he said.
Shoshanna Israel of Philadelphia’s Working Family Party said efforts to help voters fix their ballots have snowballed since Sunday, with 250 people signing up for Monday night’s telephone bank session. The party programmed the software with a voter’s name, type of missing vote, and county they live in, and created a customized script for volunteers to contact voters.
Some voters told The Post that they had not received any notice from the city government. City Vice Chairman Nick Custodio said Philadelphia officials robocalled voters who had their phone numbers. But otherwise, “we are focused on tomorrow’s election,” he said.
City officials said voters will have until 5 p.m. Monday at City Hall to nominate their replacements. However, according to Abella, who was there, at around 3:45, an official told several people in line that they had not arrived at the office by closing time and could not vote.
The decision upset some people and a sheriff’s deputy arrived to enforce the decision. Republican Mayor Seth Bleustein wrote on Twitter that it was “shameful” that voters were put in the position of trying to fix their vote at the last minute. City officials are “doing their best to help as many voters as possible with limited time and resources,” he wrote.
Not all Pennsylvania counties will notify voters if their vote-by-mail ballot is defective and allow them to submit a replacement. The court found that state law does not require counties to give voters the opportunity to correct defective ballots, but neither does it prevent them from doing so.
In Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh, officials posted lists of more than 1,000 voter names and posted undated or incorrectly dated ballots. City officials said more than 100 people corrected their ballots on Monday.
Darrin Kelly, president of AFL-CIO affiliates for the Pittsburgh area, said his members accounted for 147 of the voters whose ballots were stored there. His volunteer phone banker had reached about 100 people by 5 p.m. Monday and expected to reach everyone by the end of the night.
“The most important thing is to protect our democracy and let everyone vote,” said Kelly, who surmised most of his members were Democrats.
At a public meeting of the Lancaster County Electoral Commission on Monday, one citizen urged the commission to notify voters who cast defective ballots and allow another ballot. One board member said he agreed, but two others disagreed.
“We have never amended ballots in Lancaster County. This is a questionable procedure,” said Joshua G. Parsons, county commissioner and board member. “It’s a questionable procedure.”
In Monroe County in northeastern Pennsylvania, Republicans filed a lawsuit last week to stop officials from inspecting mail ballots before Election Day. Chance to cast a replacement. A state judge denied the request on Monday.
Meanwhile, the battle over undated or incorrectly dated ballots is far from over. When the state Supreme Court told counties not to count those ballots, it also told them to set aside those ballots — apparently in anticipation of more lawsuits. Several vote and rights groups filed lawsuits in federal court, arguing that not counting these votes on the grounds of “meaningless technicality” violated civil rights law.
Election officials fear the delay in counting votes will fuel fraud claims
Clifford Levine, a Pittsburgh-based Democratic election attorney, said he expects up to 1% of mail-in ballots to be set aside for errors. As of Monday, more than 1.1 million Pennsylvanians have voted by mail, about 70% of whom are Democrats.
The Pennsylvania secretary of state has released the names of at least 7,000 voters whose ballots have been flagged as errors, but Levine said that number will grow by Election Day as ballots arrive. rice field. , notify voters of errors or share information with states.