Election Day 2020 in Philadelphia is already one for the history books. The widespread use of mail-in and absentee ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused worry in some voters across the nation who want to make sure their votes are counted.
Philadelphia officials are not blind to this worry among voters in the city.
An open letter was published Monday by Mayor Jim Kenney and City Commissioner Lisa Deeley to inform residents of the city about what to expect on Election Day; whether they’re waiting in line at the polls or waiting for the results of the election.
Pennsylvania will play an important role in the election and has been a battleground state for President Trump and the former Vice President. President Trump narrowly won Pennsylvania in the 2016 election by a few hundred thousand votes.
Fairness, integrity, access, accurate results and patience are the principles of this election that are emphasized in the open letter. Mayor Kenney and Commissioner Deeley stress patience the most. “Patience brings calm,” they write to conclude.
For those voters in line at one of the 718 voting locations that will be open across the city tomorrow, lines might feel like they are moving slow because of the six foot distance required in line. Election Day in Pennsylvania, and the rest of the United States, coincides with a new spike in COVID-19 cases. 2,230 new cases of the virus were reported Saturday in Pennsylvania.
Even those who aren’t waiting in line to cast their ballot at the polls will have to be patient.
By law, counties across the state are not allowed to start opening and counting mail-in ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day. Election officials in Philadelphia have set up a secure operation in the Philadelphia Convention Center to process a record number of mail-in ballots. The city has received more than 400,000 to date.
Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar said in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer that the “overwhelming majority” of votes will be counted by Friday, November 6.
Back at polling locations, the Mayor and Commissioner also emphasize that this election will be secure. Votes will not be “manipulated or tainted.” Physical security is also mentioned.
Officials make it clear in the letter that anyone who attempts to intimidate, harass or coerce voters in any way will be held accountable. “This includes attempts by individuals who are not certified poll watchers to access polling locations and observe voting,” Kenney and Deeley wrote. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said in an interview on CNN Friday that Philadelphia Police and detectives will be present around polling locations to resolve any issues if they arise.
Voting locations will have poll workers and trained poll watchers.
What is the difference between the two?
Poll workers are the contact point for all voters heading the polls. They check your identification (if it’s your first time voting in a district) and guide you to the voting booth.
Poll watchers are appointed by their party or a political candidate. They report any issues with voting back to their party and to poll workers at the polling place. Poll watchers can make good faith challenges to a voter’s qualifications to vote and keep an eye out to make sure there are no issues with voting equipment according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. These poll watchers are not allowed to interact with voters.
Anyone who witnesses attempted interfere or influence in election activity are encouraged to call the District Attorney’s Office Election Task Force hotline at 215–686–9641.
Polls will be open until 8 p.m.. As long as you’re in line by 8 p.m., you will be able to vote, regardless of the wait time.
If you’re headed to the polls on Election Day, be sure to share any photos or videos of your voting experience with us on social media, @templeupdate.
Visiting our voter resources page to see a map of polling places in Philadelphia.
Full Text of Open Letter to Philadelphians About Election Day
Amid all the speeches and slogans, the tweets and talk shows, the rallies and rhetoric, the election in Philadelphia really comes down to some very simple concepts: fairness, integrity, access, and accurate results.
We are writing to ask that as you prepare for tomorrow’s election, remember those four principles. They are not empty words or phrases. They are the core of what we are trying to accomplish.
Fairness: The City’s election planning, processes and procedures favor no party or group. Our bipartisan City Commissioners have stressed that at every step. This will be a truly democratic election — small ‘d’ — and no voter should face intimidation or coercion by anyone. Any aggressive behavior or voter intimidation at the polls won’t be tolerated — this includes attempts by individuals who are not certified poll watchers to access polling locations and observe voting.
Members of the public are encouraged to report possible criminal attempts to interfere with or influence voting and election activity by calling the DAO Election Task Force hotline at 215–686–9641.
Integrity: The voting — in-person on Tuesday or mail-in ballots submitted early — will not in any way be manipulated or tainted. The voting machines that are in place for November 3 have been tested now in two prior elections.This prior use means that well-trained staff and polling place volunteers have the experience to ensure the machines are set up correctly and will be operating properly. And our operation to count mail-in ballots has added more equipment and staff to help speed the process.
Access: This election, we’re opening 718 voting locations — more than triple the number of polling places available in the June primary. That means nearly 85 percent of voters will be voting in the polling location they have used in their neighborhoods for years. All information is offered in both English and Spanish, interpretation services are provided at every polling place, COVID safety precautions are in place, and all locations are accessible for people with disabilities.
Accurate results: Our election officials will be working tirelessly to count and double-check every ballot, They have worked closely with the firm that manufactures the voting machines to ensure accurate tallies. The Commissioners have set up a tremendous, secure facility at the Convention Center to process and count mail-in and absentee ballots — more than 400,000 at last count.
There’s a fifth concept that we need you to contribute: patience.
We expect long lines at the polls. Not only will turnout be strong, but the importance of the choices on the ballot means that everyone will be taking their time before locking in their vote. And the lines will seem even longer because of the need for everyone to stay six feet apart.
So on Election Day, please be patient — the people working your voting station and waiting with you are your neighbors. They are doing their best. And remember that so long as you are in line by the time the polls close at 8 p.m., you will be able to vote.
After the polls close, and in the ensuing days, we will continue to need your patience. Never in the history of this city have so many people voted by mail. By law, staffers are not allowed to start opening and counting these ballots until Election Day itself.
That means getting a tally of mail-in ballots will easily take several days. This may determine the outcome in Philadelphia, and in the Commonwealth as a whole. So, again, please be patient.
Patience brings calm. We know all Philadelphians have been through a difficult year, and you know the importance of this election. So we close this letter with one last ask: if you should encounter frustrating or difficult situations on Election Day, let your inner strength guide you. Stay calm, stay respectful, stay above the fray.
With your help, we are confident that our city will shine as an example of how to run an election right.
Because we are Philadelphia.