City controller announces election audit

City Controller Alan Butkovitz is joining the fracas over the city’s Election Day problems, announcing Tuesday he will audit the city’s election process, dealing in part with the thousands of people forced to use provisional paper ballots when their names did not appear in pollbooks.

The three city commissioners, in charge of running Philadelphia’s elections, have already announced their own plans to figure out what went wrong with the pollbooks, as part of a full-scale review of the general election. And Mayor Nutter told reporters just after the election that he intended to have his staff review the commissioners’ operations as well.

Republican commissioner Al Schmidt, who initiated a post-election coup that toppled commissioners’ chair Stephanie Singer, replacing her with himself and Democratic commissioner Anthony Clark as co-chairmen, said he welcomed Butkovitz’s audit. The initial pre-audit conference will be held next week.

“We welcome and share his interest in this matter,” Schmidt said. “We look forward to working with him.” 

Schmidt reported last week that some 27,100 people had voted by provisional ballot on Nov. 6, more than double the number required to use paper ballots in the 2008 general election. 

The ballots are typically used when people who say they are registered voters are not included in pollbooks or supplemental lists sent to polling places in advance of the election.  They are put aside and counted later if the individual’s registration is verified in the state’s official registration system.

So far, there’s been no explanation for the pollbook problems. They are printed by a Burlington, N. J. firm, based on a computer extract provided by the Pennsylvania Department of State.