Philly behind on voter registration applications, watchdog says

    The election watchdog group Committee of Seventy expressed alarm Thursday that more than 20,000 voter registration applications in Philadelphia hadn’t been processed just 12 days before the presidential election.

    Committee of  Seventy policy director Ellen Kaplan said that, as of Wednesday, the city faced a backlog of 28,000 unprocessed applications. The deadline for citizens to submit an application for the November election was Oct. 9.

    Kaplan said many applicants are no doubt wondering why they haven’t received voter registration cards. Some may have submitted more than one application, she said, thinking their first one was lost or neglected.

    “The Committee of Seventy is very concerned that the voter registration applications will not be processed for voters to participate on Nov. 6,” Kaplan said in an interview.

    Stephanie Singer, chair of the city commission which runs elections in Philadelphia, said her staff reduced that backlog by about 5,000 by Thursday afternoon, and should have all the applications processed by Sunday.

    Voter registration cards should be in the mail the next day, she said.

    “It is absolutely normal to have a backlog like this in a presidential election year,” Singer said in a telephone interview. “We had over 20,000 voter registration forms submitted on the last day.”

    If an application is missing some information, staff members will write the applicant, who can respond by phone or email to speed things up.

    Singer said anyone who submitted a valid application by Oct. 9 should go to their polls, and they will be allowed to vote.

    But while the law demanding photo ID at polling places is not in effect, first-time voters do need some form of identification, something as simple as a utility bill.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.