Off-year election in Philly may turn out few as 1 in 10 voters
Though officials expect some confusion at the polls Tuesday due to state-sponsored television ads regarding the voter ID law — which is not in effect for the upcoming election — they don't expect enough voters to come out for it to actually make much of a difference.
"I hope I'm wrong, but I'm going to say somewhere in the neighborhood of around 10 or 11 percent," said vice president and policy director of political watchdog Committee of Seventy Ellen Mattleman Kaplan when asked to estimate a turnout figure for tomorrow's municipal election. "It depends what else is on the ballot sometimes, but if you're looking at results for other [past] municipal elections when there weren't open seats, it's pretty pathetic."
During the last off-year election in 2009, turnout was about 12 percent, but there was an open seat for the office of District Attorney.
This year, the offices of the city District Attorney and City Controller seats are being sought by incumbents Seth Williams and Alan Butkovitz, respectively. The Republican challengers are Danny Alvarez (for DA) and Terry Tracy (for Controller).
The only other local Philadelphia offices up for a vote are Court of Common Pleas Judge, which has six vacancies, and Municipal Court Judge, which has three.
On the state level, there is one vacancy for Superior Court judge, and two judges each from the state Supreme and Superior courts are up for a retention vote.
Though Kaplan doesn't foresee any particular problems tomorrow, she said her office has been fielding numerous calls from perplexed voters regarding the state's voter ID law, which has not gone into effect.
"People are confused about the voter ID law because the state issued television ads and they are confusing, even for people who know that the law isn't joined," Kaplan said. "Fortunately — and I don't really mean this — the good news is not very many people are going to be showing up to be confused about it. The bad thing is not too many people are coming out to vote."
Poll workers will be required to hand out a state-produced leaflet about the law and to ask voters if they have photo identification.
However, they are not allowed to in any way indicate voters will need photo identification for upcoming elections.
"That's what the Commonwealth Court judge said was wrong in the last election, because that's what poll workers were telling people," Kaplan said. "It's not true because nobody knows what's going to happen in future elections."
Advocates with Committee of Seventy, together with officials from the Philadelphia District Attorney's and City Commissioner's offices, will be overseeing Tuesday's election.
"Members of the District Attorney’s Office will monitor action at the polls and enforce fair practices to ensure that a fair election is held on Tuesday," a release from the District Attorney's Office stated.
Any voter who does experience any type of problem at the polls is asked to call the Committee of Seventy's hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683).