Nutter designates fact-finding team to look into Philly election problems
December 7, 2012By Elizabeth Fiedler
Election Day was more than a month ago, but the city of Philadelphia is still trying to understand voters' Election Day problems. The troubles included 14,000 voters using provisional ballots when some city officials say they should have been allowed to vote the traditional way.
Today Mayor Michael Nutter announced he has assembled a group to poke around the election issues.
But don't call this an investigation.
"There actually is a better term," insisted Nutter, "it's called fact finding. This is not an investigation, so I'm asking you not to use that term."
Nutter's fact-finding team will examine the accuracy and integrity of Philadelphia's voter registration, provisional ballot use, and poll worker training, among other issues.
"Before you ever got to a provisional ballot, there may have been issues about what names were or were not in the book for someone to sign in the first place," said Nutter. "Or there could have been a significant amount of encouragement from any number of different entities to, as a last-step measure, just use a provisional: If you're not at the right polling place we'll just use the provisional and somehow, someway, they'll sort it out later."
Nutter named the city's managing director to lead the fact-finding team, which includes the pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church and representatives from the offices of the city's inspector general and the chief integrity officer.
Commissioner Al Schmidt says the team's work will benefit voters.
"In plain English, the mayor would like some of his people to speak to some of our people about how we can do things better, and I think that's a great thing," said Schmidt.
Even though the commissioners already released a report investigating a spike in provisional ballots, Ellen Kaplan, with watchdog group The Committee of 70, says the team is a good idea.
"I don't think it's redundant, because the city commissioners are looking at their own procedures and obviously, when you have an inside group looking at its own procedures, it's harder for anybody — not just them — it's harder for anybody to have a dispassionate look at their own procedures," said Kaplan. "This is an outside group coming in, and by the way, there's very serious high-level people in this fact-finding group."
There is no hard deadline for the fact-finding team to report back.