Behind the Scenes: Primary Election Day

Committee of Seventy, volunteers keeping watch over Philadelphia elections

The polls are open until 8 p.m. for Tuesday’s Pennsylvania state and presidential primary elections with voters nominating candidates for Senate, Congress, State House and State Senate seats, along with the 'top-of-the-ticket' GOP presidential contest.

There has been some speculation that dwindling interest in the presidential race, with Mitt Romney now dominating the Republican delegate race, will keep voters away from the polls.

The fair election group Committee of Seventy reminded us that Philadelphia turnout in the 2008 Democratic primary contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton was over 53 percent, with 429,833 voters casting ballots out of the registered 799,349 Democrats.

Republicans turned out in the 2008 primary race between John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul, just under 15 percent, with 21,421 voters participating out of a total of 145,434 registered city Republicans.

For those who do choose to turn out on Tuesday, the Committee of Seventy has volunteers in place monitoring polling places and answering questions for voters about the Pennsylvania primary election. The committee’s Election Protection hot line is also up and running until 9 p.m. and can be reached by calling 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).

Adding to the confusion for some voters and poll workers is Philadelphia’s attempt to test the state’s new voter ID law. It’s not official until the Nov. 6 general election, but polling place officials are asking all voters to present photo ID on Tuesday. Most voters can cast votes without ID, except for first-time voters and those who are new to a specific polling location.

The Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition is already at work helping to education voters about the new ID requirements. The effort is focused Tuesday on Philadelphia which is home to “1,024,925 of the state’s 8,215,595 million registered voters,” according to the group.

As part of its election day “watchdog” functions, Committee of Seventy reported a number of questions and challenges throughout the day, including disputes over the seating of election judges and inspectors. “Friction between Judges of Election (usually Democrat) and Minority Inspectors (usually GOP) have become the norm during local elections,” said a mid-day press release from Seventy.

The organization also noted “scattered reports of machines not working and polling places not opening on time. Philadelphia City Commissioners, Chair Stephanie Singer, Anthony Clark and Al Schmidt are handling those complaints.

Here’s a sample of the kind of report most voters never hear about on election day:

"Crime Scene Polling Place: The Palbano Recreation Center in Rhawnhurst (Bustleton and Solly Avenues) was apparently broken into (not certain when this happened) and is now a “crime scene.” The voting machines were moved to the hallway."

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