Missing Write-In Votes Needed to Decide Who Runs Philly's Polling Places

November 19, 2013

What if they held an election and lost the votes?

That's what has happened in 15 voting divisions around the city, where officials have been unable to locate paper tapes identifying the write-in votes recorded in 21 races for judge of elections and inspector - the people who are supposed to run those 15 polling places for the next four years.

Unless and until the tapes are located, it will be impossible to say who won those posts on Nov. 5, leaving the positions vacant, to be filled by future volunteers, usually recruited on an election-by-election basis by Democratic or Republican committee people.

Similar problems with write-in votes occur in every election, according to city election veterans, and it does not usually matter, because write-ins are rarely recorded in numbers sufficient to affect election outcomes.

But the exception occurs every four years, when voters in each of the city's 1,687 divisions get to elect a judge of elections and two inspectors, responsible for running the polling places in the subsequent four years.

In hundreds of divisions, nobody collects enough signatures to get on the ballot, so it is possible to win the jobs by writing in one's name or seeking the support of a spouse or a neighbor.

The judges receive $100 each Election Day, the inspectors $95.

The 15 polling places where significant numbers of write-in votes are missing represent fewer than 1 percent of the city's 1,687 voting divisions. As for how the tapes were lost, or who's responsible: It's a mystery.

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