Butkovitz releases audit of provisional ballots in 2012 election

City Controller Alan Butkovitz greets well-wishers yesterday as he enters Famous Fourth Street Deli. Butkovitz defeated two challengers in the primary, winning the Democratic nomination for November’s race. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff)

City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released a report on the spike in provisional ballots used in Philadelphia in the 2012 election, saying inadequate poll-worker training and a glitch in the printing of voter rolls are the main culprits in the uptick. 

"The election system has to do better," Butkovitz said. "To those people and to people who are voting for the first time and the concept that every vote counts, it was a failure. And commissioners have to do better and the Department of State has to do better." 

A record 27,000 provisional ballots were cast in Philly's 2012 election, more than double the number cast in the 2008 presidential election. Many of those voters were forced to vote provisionally for legitimate reasons: 9,000 went to the wrong polling place, and 7,600 were ineligible voters, for instance.

But almost 10,000 of those votes should have been cast on the regular voting machines, according to Butkovitz. That group includes 4,800 voters whose names did not appear at their polling places due to a printing error with the site's voter rolls and 4,900 voters who were properly listed in the books but could not be located by poll workers. 

One of Butkovitz' recommendations is to increase the pay for poll-worker training from $20 to $50. 

City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, who was chairwoman for the 2012 election, said she agrees poll-worker training is an issue, although there is little the Commission can do without increased incentives like higher pay.

"I have always advocated for better poll-worker training and I think we could do much better job really with the whole ecosystem of poll-worker training and I agree that we need to do more," she said.

A "fact-finding" team appointed by Mayor Nutter is also expected to release a report on the provisional ballots any day.

The Butkovitz report did not address the question of whether the Commission should remain an independent "row office" or be folded into the administration, as Nutter and others have proposed.