Philadelphia accepts $10M grant for ambitious election plan

Odell Griffin places his mail-in ballot in a box outside City Hall.

Odell Griffin places his mail-in ballot in a box outside City Hall. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia on Thursday accepted a $10 million grant to help it advance an ambitious election plan to buy counting equipment and spread satellite election offices and secure drop boxes around the city to absorb growing demand for voting by mail in November’s presidential election.

The city’s election board, the Philadelphia City Commissioners, voted to accept the grant from the Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life, whose donors include Facebook and Google.

Accepting the grant comes as President Donald Trump’s campaign is suing to outlaw drop boxes — used in the primary in the heavily Democratic city of Philadelphia and its suburban counties where Trump lost badly in 2016’s election despite prevailing in Pennsylvania.

Half the money, about $5 million, will go to equipment such as inserters, sorters, extractors, and scanners to speed up the counting of mail-in ballots, amid concerns that a presidential election result will hang in limbo for days on a drawn-out vote count in Pennsylvania.

Another $2.2 million will go to open 15 satellite election offices where people can register to vote, apply for a mail-in ballot or drop off their completed ballot.

Another $550,000 will go to installing 15 drop-boxes that are available 24 hours a day at each satellite election office, complete with 24-hour video surveillance.

The city is aiming to open more than 800 fully-staffed polling places, including hazard pay for poll workers, after it consolidated down to 190 polling locations in the primary election.

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