Decision 2020

Many More Polling Places Will Be Open Nov. 3, Compared to Pandemic Primary

Election officials in two of Pennsylvania's most populous counties, Montgomery and Philadelphia, are optimistic about in-person voting, with thousands already volunteering to work the polls.

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On a normal Election Day in years past, 10,000 volunteers show up and work at polling places in Montgomery County and Philadelphia.

For Pennsylvania's June primary amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of volunteers dipped to a couple thousand combined in two of the state's three largest counties.

That meant only 330 of the usual 1,182 polling places were open -- 190 in Philadelphia and 140 in Montgomery County. Wait times for voters were long, despite tens of thousands of mail-in ballots cast.

However, there is growing optimism, and the volunteers to back it up, that in-person voting for the Nov. 3 presidential election will be much different.

Some 5,000 volunteers in Philadelphia and more than 1,000 in Montgomery County have already signed up to work the polls on Election Day, officials said this week, and the numbers continue to grow.

"We are doing very well with poll workers and knock on wood, we will have polling places back near normal levels Nov. 3," Montgomery County Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence Jr. said Wednesday.

Lawrence, who serves as chairman of the county's election board, said the county won't have its normal 352 polling places open, but he could foresee double the number open during the pandemic primary.

He wouldn't say which method of voting he preferred: mail-in or in-person. But he noted that voting by mail-in ballots helps keep crowds down at polling places. In the primary, 126,000 voters used mail-in ballots compared to 88,000 who voted in person.

But the primary in Pennsylvania doesn't include vast numbers of independent voters because only those registered as Democrats or Republicans can cast ballots for candidates running for their party's nomination.

"I'm agnostic when it comes to that," Lawrence said of how to vote. "My role is to make sure however people want to vote, whether by mail or in person, that they can do that safely, and that it’s counted."

Philadelphia's City Commissioners Office, which oversees elections in the city, released this week the first of three sets of polling place locations that will be open Nov. 3. (That list can be found HERE.)

A city elections official said polling place locations for 500 divisions across the city will be released each of the next two weeks as well.

By Sept. 23, nearly all of the city's 1,703 divisions -- also known as voting precincts -- will have their polling places set.

Officials expect between 700 and 800 polling places will be open on Election Day, not much fewer than the normal 830.

The city will need as many polling places as it can get, with 350,000 voters likely to cast ballots in person Nov. 3.

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