Seventy has advocated for clean and well-run elections in Philadelphia since its founding in 1904. Today, the campaign for better elections focuses on the outdated and cumbersome structure of election oversight left over from the mid-20th century.

The Office of the City Commissioners has demonstrated repeatedly over the past 65 years the vulnerabilities of election oversight and management provided by three low-profile political offices. Two of the first three Commissioners elected under the new 1951 Home Rule Charter were caught taking kickbacks and committing mail fraud. Since then, city voters have endured ethics violations, election fraud, provisional ballot disasters, disability and language rights violations, hour-long lines and an absent City Commissioner Chair with a $135,000 paycheck. Read more.

These problems begin with leadership. Among the largest cities in the country, Philadelphia is the only one with three full-time elected officials whose sole job is to oversee elections. Unlike every other operational department in the city, no single executive is in charge. No real lines of accountability exist and problems persist over decades. This must change.

The Better Philadelphia Elections Coalition formed in April 2016 to call on City Council to create a new Department of Elections administered by a professionally-accredited Election Director appointed by the Mayor with the consent of City Council, with oversight provided by an appointed, non-salaried, and bipartisan Philadelphia Board of Elections, also approved by City Council.

Seventy urges city voters to join the Coalition in urging City Council to take action in modernizing Philadelphia elections. The integrity of the electoral process and franchise of every voter depend on sound leadership. We’ve waited long enough.

 

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