Election Day Wrap-up and Looking Forward to Future Elections
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Election Day Wrap-up and Looking Forward to Future Elections

November 8, 2021

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Looking back on Nov. 2:

Quiet but turnout was up


Last Tuesday’s election is in the books (here are results for Philly and PA), and the good news for everybody is that voting proceeded smoothly in most places around the state and around the country. But the administration of the election was by no means flawless, with Spanish-language mail-in voting instructions in Berks County listing the wrong return deadline and ballot counting delays in Montgomery County. At least in Philadelphia, it was “one of the most quiet elections we’ve had in a long time,” C70 policy director Pat Christmas told Axios Philadelphia, though overall turnout for the off-year election was up. Election Day is less chaotic when large numbers of voters are casting mail-in ballots.

  • Turnout higher in the suburbs: In Bucks County it was 26%38% in Chester; and 38% in Montgomery. The likely reason: contested county offices and local school-board elections.
  • Philly voters overrule the “rule of two”: City personnel managers will no longer be limited to considering only the two job or promotion candidates with the highest scores on civil-service exams, thanks to the passage of a ballot question rolling back the “rule of two” requirement in the 1951 Home Rule Charter. It was established to guard against political patronage but proponents of the change, led by Councilmember Cherelle Parker, argue that it thwarts diversity and hamstrings managers. Sixty-two percent of voters agree, and so do we.

Going forward from Nov. 2


Philadelphia’s 22-percent turnout last week — higher than unusual but still low — was not unexpected, considering the lack of competitive races on the ballot and lower profile judicial elections. So it’s little wonder that waiting in line wasn’t a problem for voters. Another reason was that so many more people are voting by mail now (roughly one-third in Philly). This begs a question: Do we still need roughly 1,700 election precincts (located at ~800 polling places), each of which is supposed to be staffed by five poll workers? Recruiting, training and deploying 5,000-8,500 Philadelphians to work the polls twice a year is unsustainable. At some point and over a reasonable period of time, Pennsylvania will have to wind down precinct-based voting as early voting and vote centers become available. For now...

  • Raise poll-worker pay. The hours are long and the responsibilities substantial, both protecting voters’ franchise and the integrity of the election. And for all this the pay is just $120 (plus $40 for a quickie on-line training session). Philly poll workers deserve a pay bump, Mount Airy election judge Larry West writes in an Inquirer op-ed.