Concerns raised about backlog of unprocessed voter registration applications

Updated: To include additional information 2:21 p.m.

The Committee of Seventy, a good government watchdog group is concerned about a backlog of applications in the City Commission’s office from people trying to register to vote for this year’s presidential election.

In a letter to the City Commissioners, City Council and the Mayor's office Committee of Seventy president director Zack Stalberg wrote it’s unclear how large the backlog is, but it appears the number of unprocessed registrations may exceed 20,000, “raising the possibility that potential voters will not be registered –or know whether they are registered –in time to vote on Election Day.”

“We got calls from a number of voters who were concerned they didn’t get their voter registration yet,” said Ellen Kaplan, policy director for the Committee of Seventy, adding that the Committee would like to help by either recruiting a team of volunteers to assist commission staff or the Committee urges the Commissioners to hire temporary workers than can help tackle the backlog.

Kaplan attended Wednesday’s commissioners meeting where she learned that some of the unprocessed applications date to Sept. 23.

Still, the number of applications received for this year’s presidential election is lower than years past. In 2008 the commission’s office received 300,000 applications compared to 200,000 this year. And on the final night to register to vote, the office received 34,000 applications in 2008 and 24,000 this year.

Tim Dowling, the elections finance and document specialist said volunteer groups dropped off tens of thousands of applications Oct. 9 –the last day to register to vote, although they had been advised to bring applications in sooner. Nonetheless, he said everything is “moving right along.”

City Commissioner Al Schmidt echoed Dowling's remarks and said that when groups turn the forms in late "it creates a real problem. It's something we struggle with every election." He said when volunteers wait until the last minute to hand in forms some people fill out multiple applications because they still have not recieved their registration card. 

Schmidt said "every registration form our office receives will be processed, period." He added that commission staff work until 10 p.m, seven days a week and for presidential elections the Revenue Department provides data entry clerks who assist with processing forms.

Greg Irving, the acting voting registration administrator did not know how many applications had not been processed but said “that’s common with a presidential election. Everyone who turned in and submitted an application before the deadline will be able to vote in the coming election.”

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