Philly officials scrambling to address primary election problems before November

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — With a little more than three months to go before November's general election, officials in Philadelphia are scrambling to address a host of challenges that they fear could lead to voter disenfranchisement.

The coronavirus and Black Lives Matter protests contributed to all kinds of problems in the June primary, including an unexpected spike in mail-in voting, seemingly endless lines at polling places and chaos at mail-in ballot dropbox locations.

In a teleconference call last week, City Commissioners Chair Lisa Deeley told members of City Council's Committee on Legislative Oversight that they must use the time that is left between now and November to address those challenges.

"Philadelphia already has over 140,000 mail-in ballot applications and that number will likely more than double before the October deadline," she warned.

Commissioner Omar Sabir said they'll need to launch a major ad campaign.

"We want TV commercials, we want social media buys, we're developing a mobile app," he proposed. "And we have to inform our educate our voters and poll workers, which definitely increase and enhance the voting experience for our average voter."

Deeley also called for more ballot dropbox locations and satellite offices for in-person voting and new equipment. She also wants to eliminate secrecy envelopes, which she calls a vestige of the past.

"If the secrecy envelope requirement were to be eliminated, then county electdion officials would able to more quickly process the ballots after the elections," she said.

But all of that will require millions more in funding, said Deeley, and that might be the biggest challenge, given the financial fallout from the pandemic.

"Before COVID-19, the administration stepped up and increased our budget. But this was later rescinded," she said. "We currently do not have the money in our budget for the $95,000 that we must spend on paper ballots, or the $50,000 dollars to rent the vehicles to collect the ballots on election night. We only have $150,000 for postage."