PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia voters who had missing or incorrect dates on their mail-in ballots were being allowed to file replacement ballots at City Hall or vote provisionally at their regular precincts Tuesday.
Hundreds of people whose names were published Friday by the Philadelphia City Commissioners, which is the city's election board, showed up at City Hall on Monday to correct errors with dates as well as other flagged issues, including missing security envelopes and missing signatures. A handful of county elections boards made efforts to notify voters that they could fix ballot issues. Their outreach came in response to a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that mail-in ballots may not be counted if they lack accurate handwritten dates on the exterior envelopes.
It's unclear how many ballots have been flagged across the state; Philadelphia's lists contain more than 3,500 names, almost 2,400 of which were cited for missing or incorrect dates. Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to vote by mail. The number of mail-in ballots is large enough that they might matter in a close race, such as the U.S. Senate contest between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz.
The Philadelphia office, which normally closes at 5 p.m., stayed open until 7 p.m. Monday, but voters who had gotten in line to correct the issues after 3:45 p.m. were turned away, said Deputy Commissioner Nick Custodio, with the elections board.
Custodio said election workers were strongly encouraging those voters to return to City Hall on Tuesday to file a replacement ballot. If they can't make it to City Hall, they can go to their regular polling place and file a provisional ballot as well, he said. But he said it was important for them to do it early.
"We're in brand new territory over here," he said. "The law says those ballots (mail-ins) must be received by 8 p.m. today. It has to be IN the ballot box by 8 p.m. People should come early because the lines got very long yesterday and we want to make sure everyone gets through the process by 8 p.m."
Custodio said it's unclear what will happen if someone is still in line at 8 p.m. to correct a mail-in ballot issue.
The City Commissioners also voted in an emergency meeting early Tuesday to reinstate a process to reconcile the poll books while the count is happening, rather than waiting until after the count. The procedure has been used to weed out possible double votes in the past, but has not found any issues during the past three elections and is slower than reconciling after the count. Under the reinstated process, the final ballots are likely to be counted on Friday, depending on how many ballots are cast, Custodio said.
Andrew Richman, an attorney with Philadelphia's Law Department, said the vote came after a judge issued an order denying Republicans' request for an injunction that would have forced the city to reinstate the process. But the judge's opinion, which had admonished the city's decision to remove the process, raised concerns for commissioners.
"The Court's unfortunate opinion has cast unwarranted doubt on the integrity of Philadelphia's election at the eleventh hour and will feed disinformation campaigns that seize on every opportunity to cultivate distrust in the democratic process," Richman wrote in an emailed statement. "The City Commissioners cannot ignore public concerns — however unfounded —created by the Court's opinion."