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I've made a few comments over the past few weeks about my difficulties in obtaining an absentee ballot from the Philadelphia County Board of Elections - the local office that distributes Pennsylvania absentee ballots.  I sent in my absentee ballot application by Priority Mail (with Delivery Confirmation) on October 10.  The USPS website confirms that they received it on October 14.

I have not, however, received my absentee ballot, and my three phone calls to the Board of Elections has not left me hopeful.  I was repeatedly told that the office had been working long shifts to accomodate the massive and "unexpected" number of requests for absentee ballots.

It's time to sound the alarm bell.  Friday is the deadline for absentee ballots to be received by the Philadelphia County Board of Elections, and there is no indication that they are planning to extend the deadline for receiving absentee ballots that were mailed out late.  If all of the absentee voters in Philadelphia are having the problem that I am having, tens of thousands of Philadelphians could be, for all practical purposes, disenfranchised.

Philadelphia is, far and away, the largest county in Pennsylvania, containing 10-12% of the state's voters.  It is also a Democratic stronghold.  To be blunt, Barack Obama could lose Pennsylvania if he doesn't run up the score in Philadelphia County.

It is impossible for me to travel to Philadelphia on Election Day, which is why I did everything I was supposed to do in order to get an absentee ballot - indeed, I did much more than I needed to do, since I sent in my application nearly 3 weeks before the deadline and followed up 3 times when I didn't receive my ballot in a timely manner.  Since my mailing address is in Maryland, transit time for the ballot to arrive should be just a couple days.  But now, it looks like I won't have a ballot in time for my vote to be counted.

So if it happened to me - someone living less than 200 miles away who sent in his application 3 weeks early - then you can bet that it happened to thousands of other Philadelphians, the vast majority of whom are likely Obama voters.

This is it, folks - we need to act.  I've already called the Obama field office in University City, but I have no clue what is being done about this - they might be too busy worrying about on-the-ground stuff to pay attention to absentee ballot issues.  I can't get an extension of the Pennsylvania Absentee Ballot deadline on my own, but I'm sure someone here knows a lawyer who can.  If the election comes down to Pennsylvania, this could be the difference.

It's time to act.

UPDATE: Edits made to reduce the alarmism somewhat.  But if this election turns out to be closer than we expect, 10000 votes in PA could be a difference-maker.

Originally posted to Matisyahu on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:33 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  ALERT RACHEL/KEITH (0+ / 0-)

      rachel's been doing a piece on voter fraud every day, because she's paranoid about losing this election by voter fraud.

      email her and she'll likely do a piece about it to get it national attention:,,,,

    •  I don't *think* this applies to you (0+ / 0-)

      But for anyone overseas, if this has happened to you, you should use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot.

      You only get to vote for federal offices but it is better than nothing. There may be something comparable for people still in the US - I really don't know - but I thought I'd put this at the top in case anyone overseas stumbles across this.

      For anyone else in this situation, it's worth perusing your state's board of elections website to see if there are any further alternatives. For example, for Pennsylvania, it appears you might be eligible for an Emergency Absentee Ballot?

      Also, try contacting your county Board of Elections and asking them what you can do. I vote in North Carolina and the BOE there has been amazingly helpful and competent. I didn't know until I talked to them, but they were actually able to fax me a ballot, and it could be returned by fax as long as the original was mailed later.

  •  I don't think it's disenfranchisment (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    la urracca, Lujane, Matisyahu, axel000

    necessarily.  Sounds like commonplace incompetence to me.  Incidentally, I haven't received my absentee ballot either.  I will look into it tomorrow for sure.

  •  Just to calm you down somewhat (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The Democrats have a 1 million voter advantage over Republicans in Pennsylvania.

    And Obama wins Democrats overwhelmingly. So I would argue that while he does need to run up the score in Philadelphia, he has quite a statewide cushion and a few thousand absentee ballots in Pennsylvania will not decide the election.

    Obamascrapbook Proud Citizen of Barack America!

    by jenontheshore on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:40:24 PM PDT

    •  Actually a 1.2 million advantage. (0+ / 0-)

      Obamascrapbook Proud Citizen of Barack America!

      by jenontheshore on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:40:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That is a 1.2 registration advantage. Those are (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lineatus, dewley notid, Matisyahu

      not votes.  There is many a slip between the number of voters registered in a party and the individual elected to office.  10,000 votes are a lot of votes, and could be a sympton of a larger, hidden problem.

      It worries me that John McCain is as certain he will win PA as Bush was that he would win FlA in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. It worries me that Gov. Rendell is all over the television saying we don't have PA in the bag. It worries me that whenever citizens are being interviewed on television in PA, they are 4-1 for McCain.  It worries me that Rep. Murtha is worried about how his constituents will vote.

      Did I mention that I am worried about PA?

      •  jesus christ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        This cannot be OVER soon enough for me.  Look I am usually very realistic and pragmatic about Barack's chances.  The election will be much closer than many think but NO WAY IS HE LOSING PA.  Philly is my hometown and the city will come through.  So stop "worrying" and I hope that you are working hard like the rest of us to GOTV.  That's what we need right now.  We don't need "worriers" but we need WORKERS.

        •  I have worked for Sen. Obama since Aug.2007. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JPZenger, side pocket, Matisyahu, Julia C

          As a volunteer of course.  I made a minimum of  25 calls a day for the entire primary season, I traveled to Nevada to call and GOTV for their primary. I have donated far beyond my means, and I have registered voters, taken orders for and delivered yard signs and enlisted people in other states to sign up with, volunteer for and donate to the campaign.  I think I have earned the right to worry.

      •  Many outdated registrations (0+ / 0-)

        I understand PA has not been purging their voter lists.  That is good and bad.  There are many dead people and people who have moved out of state on the rolls.  As a result, the Dem. edge is not as big as it appears.

        JPZenger was a newspaper publisher whose jury trial in the 1730s for seditious libel helped establish the freedom to criticize top government officials.

        by JPZenger on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 06:20:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  One voter being deterred from voting is too many! (6+ / 0-)
  •  You have the right to be furious (6+ / 0-)
    Incompetence in getting the ballots out is inexcusable.  I hope you called your county Dem. chairman and your state's attorney general to get helpful action initiated.  Certainly advertising the problem here on an international website is a smart step.  You might also want to get names of the people you talk to at your board of elections to make sure that those who are helpful get recognition and those who aren't are held accountably.

    The truth about John McCain's Keating Cheating

    by tikkun on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:50:04 PM PDT

  •  How About Governor Rendell's Office? (4+ / 0-)
  •  absentee ballot solution (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peraspera, FischFry, Lujane

    I also live in Pennsylvania - the southeast suburbs.  I don't know if this is an option, but I went down to the local election bureau handed in my absentee ballot face to face and got the ballot immediately.  I filled it out, handed it back in and watched the clerk time stamp it.  

    I too was worried about ballots in the mail.  I don't know if my solution is possible in Philly, but it worked in the 'burbs.  Almost as good as early voting.

  •  2 alternatives for you (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike, Lujane

    You can submit an Emergency Application by Friday at 5:00. Normally, this relates to personal emergencies, but not receiving your ballot should qualify. Also, I'm fairly certain you can vote in person at your County Board of Election office. They may hassle you about waiting for your ballot in the mail, but come Friday, they'll lose that argument. In the meantime, you might still try. Normally, one would file the application and vote at the same time -- but they might be willing to let you vote, under the circumstances.

    Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you:

    by FischFry on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 10:09:00 PM PDT

  • more diary about voting problems... (0+ / 0-)

    Honestly many progressives are actually making our work so much harder.  The constant focus on "voter suppression" etc... seriously undermines my attempts at encouraging people of color and young people to get out and vote.  I have reported on this since last week.  I am hearing more and more people talking about the fact that "their vote will not count."  Guess what?  This actually DEPRESSES turnout.  Today's NYT takes concern trolling to a new level with an article about Blacks "afraid" that their votes will not count.  This is simply NOT helping with GOTV.  It is counterproductive.

  •  Call The Committee of Seventy about Philly... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JPZenger, peraspera, LordMike, Matisyahu

    voting problems.

    If you have to, push them on it. They will find out.

    The last day for County Board of Elections to recieve a voted absentee ballot is October 31st.  Note: Postmarks are not honored.

    Faith alone will not save you... Blind faith least of all.

    by The Blue State Bandit on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 10:26:22 PM PDT

  •  Another county let a friend pick up the ballot (0+ / 0-)

    In another county in PA, my friend was concerned she wouldn't get her absentee ballot in time, but had trouble getting to the county office.  She filled out the request form and called the office.  They said if I brought in the form, they would give me the absentee ballot, which they did.  She then filled it in and mailed it back.

    It is very important in any state to follow the absentee ballot rules very closely.  At least 10% of absentee ballots are thrown out nationally because the voter didn't comply with all of the rules.

    In PA, a voter can mail it back or deliver it.  However, if the voter asks someone else to hand deliver it, that voter must fill out and sign a form that is on the State website.  It is called the certified person form.

    As noted above, PA's deadline for absentee ballots is RECEIPT in the correct county office by the end of business on Friday --- not postmarked by then.  

    JPZenger was a newspaper publisher whose jury trial in the 1730s for seditious libel helped establish the freedom to criticize top government officials.

    by JPZenger on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 06:24:42 AM PDT

  •  You are being disenfranchised (0+ / 0-)

    Here is a letter I sent to a friend in Philly, who didn't get her absentee ballot:

    "This is happening all over the country. Sequoia Voting Systems failed to mail over 11,000 absentee ballots to voters in Denver, CO. They say it was due to clerical errors, but it's happening in Philadelphia as well.

    You are being disenfranchised. It is due to the privatization of the beating heart of our democracy - our vote. If that doesn't piss you off, I don't know what will.

    They are doing it again. In 2004, they threw out over 3 million voters who thought they were registered. This time it may be as high as 6 million, especially in swing states like CO and PA. And the Republicans are complaining about ACORN, who submitted and responsibly flagged registrations in the name of Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck? As if Mickey Mouse is going to vote. Maybe a few bad apples did that just to get paid, but John McCain said that this is "tearing at the fabric of Democracy", and Obama should be investigated for his ties to ACORN, and other community organizations (like Grassroots Campaign, Inc. that I worked for), that register people in inner city areas. It's total bullshit, and just a distraction from the real massive election fraud going on.

    I called your elections office, and they said your ballot has to be in their hands by Friday. When was your mail supposed to be forwarded? Because you will probably have to deliver it in person. The absentee ballot department is 215-686-3469. I tried it, and it's been busy, so keep trying. So give them a call and find out where to drop it off, or if you don't get it, what you can do, if anything.

    If all else fails, they also gave me this number for the county commissioner's office 215-686-3460. I called them, and they weren't open yet.

    Good luck (for all of our sake)"

  •  My experience with PCBE (0+ / 0-)

    I live in Japan. I voted absentee ballot in Phila. county in 2004. Things went just as I was told they would except for the fact that my vote for John Kerry did not get him into the white house.

    This year I made sure to send in my application early and did so at the end of July. I recall getting a quick reply back in 2004 so when I received nothing by mid-September I was a bit worried. On my trip back home to Philly I made it a point to stop the office for Philadelphia County Board of Elections and see what was going on. They informed me that there was still plenty of time and that the ballots had just been sent out (to my Japan address) the day before. When I arrived back here my ballot was indeed waiting for me. The only hitch was the it was not the standard ballot but instead the federal write-in ballot. It was pretty easy to assume what to do but the directions I received did not match the write-in ballot. I called PCBE many times and it was busy but finally got through in early October. They said that they didn't have any of the standard absentee ballots back in September so they sent federal write-in ballots for people like me who applied "early". The gentleman I talked to was nice enough and explained what I should do. So I filled it out and sent it back on October 10th.  

    I feel pretty confident my vote has been received and will be counted but considering the importance of this event and the time with which they had to prepare, it seemed like PCBE was already scrambling back in September and that's inexcusable.  

    Good luck if this post isn't already too late. Raise as big a stink as necessary so that hopefully we won't have to have the same problem when we re-elect Obama in 2012.

  •  Same problem - this is what I was told (0+ / 0-)


    I am in the same boat - still haven't received my ballot.  I was told that I could still vote in federal elections if I got it back by the regular voting deadline on 11/4.  They've now posted the same information on the Committee of Seventy's website -

    Hope that helps, and hope you get your ballot!

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