An Informal survey of voters in Philadelphia indicates that the new machines were well received by the public at the 2019 General Election, November 5. Citywide, a more formal assessment of using the new ExpressVote XL touchscreen indicated that further work needs to be done before the expected massive turnout in the presidential election coming up in 2020. Committee of Seventy indicated that some voters felt that the booths were too dark, the typeface on the screen too small, the screen itself was too sensitive, and there were lines at some polling places due to the new system.
The unanimous verdict in Southwest, however, was that the paper ballots were easy to insert and to correct if that was necessary, and most voters felt it a comfort to know that their electronic selections were backed up with a verifiable paper record.
The election results produced several surprises for Philly voters and in the Greater Philadelphia Area: A modest “blue wave” in the five-counties of Southeast PA, and in the City, the win of an at-large seat on Council by Kendra Brooks.
Many Southwest voters will remember the forceful presentation by Councilwoman-elect Brooks at the Candidates Night at Kingsessing Recreation Center back on October 11. Of the 11 candidates at the Southwest Phila. District Services event, her knowledge of the City’s public education needs – a top priority for local residents – was persuasive. Brooks’ record of accomplishments – earning an MBA from Eastern University while being a single working mom and being selected for a place on Mayor Kenney’s Nominating Committee for our new Board of Education – obviously impressed voters around the city as well.
Running on the new national independent Working Family Party ticket enabled Brooks to gain outside endorsements from such disparate sources as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the environmentalist Sierra Club. Hence, she was able to unseat a Republican whose party had held the second minority at-large seat for 70 years.
Last week’s passage of the Senate Bill 421 on elections introduces some additional – welcome – changes in time for next November: absentee ballot deadline is now 8:00 p.m. on election night; registration deadline is now 15 days before the election (vs the previous 30 days); and you don’t have to provide an excuse to use the absentee ballots!
On the negative side, the new law blocks the voter’s ability to vote straight-ticket and voters have to separately mark each candidate in the various positions.