Liacouras Center opens as satellite election office

The city opened seven voting offices on Tuesday and plans to open 10 more in the coming weeks.

Priscilla Bennett, a North Central resident, waits for her ballot at the Liacouras Center on Sept. 29. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University’s Liacouras Center, along with six other satellite election offices across the city, opened today for Philadelphians to begin registering to vote, receiving mail-in ballots and dropping off their completed mail-in ballots in person.

The other offices that opened today include City Hall Room 140, George Washington High School, Roxborough High School, Tilden Middle School, Julia De Burgos Elementary School and Overbrook Elementary School, according to a city press release

All satellite election offices will be open seven days a week, from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday until Election Day on Nov. 3, The Temple News reported.

“These offices will be crucial to providing alternative voting options for the voters of Philadelphia,” said City Commissioner Lisa Deeley at the office’s opening.

State Sen. Sharif Street, who also attended the opening, said he believes the Liacouras Center office will increase voter turnout among Temple students and local residents. 

“It’s a highly accessible facility and it’s near public transportation,” Street, whose district encompasses part of Main Campus, said. “Why shouldn’t we give people multiple times to vote at a convenient location? I think you’ll get a lot more people to participate in the process this way.”

Voters can request mail-in ballots at the offices until one week before Election Day, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. In that final week, the satellite election offices will accept returned ballots but will not provide new ballots.

For votes to be counted, voters must place their ballots inside the provided secrecy envelope and sign the declaration on the back of the declaration envelope, said City Council President Darrell Clarke.

“The simple reality is there will be significant challenges as it relates to the ballot if it is not filled out appropriately,” said Clarke, whose district encompasses Main Campus. 

Before proceeding to the voting lines, voters check in at a hand sanitizing station, are asked if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are provided a mask if they do not have one, Deeley said. 

“One of the reasons why we chose this spot in particular is because we have the ability for people to remain socially distanced,” Deeley said.

There will be six to eight staff members working at each location, Deeley added.

Once more staff members are trained in the coming weeks, the city will open an additional 10 offices at the first floor of Riverview Place, Joseph H. Brown School, Harding Middle School, J. Hampton Moore School, A. B. Day School, Mastbaum High School, Creative and Performing Arts, Feltonville Intermediate School, Julia Ward Howe School and Alain Locke School, according to the release. 

Funding for all the offices will come from a $10 million grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, according to the release. The city is also using funding from this grant to provide additional pay for poll workers, extra cleaning for poll places and over $5 million of equipment for sending, processing and counting votes quickly and accurately, according to the release.

Priscilla Bennett, a teacher who lives in North Central, demonstrated how to return a mail-in ballot in person at the press conference, becoming Philadelphia’s first voter to do so in the 2020 general election. 

“It felt good to be engaged in the process, that’s the most important thing,” Bennett said. “I’m glad that these centers have opened up because it’s giving people an opportunity to be part of the process, and that’s the most important part.”

While Bennett cast her vote, residents lined up outside of the Liacouras Center waiting to cast their own ballots as the center prepared to open at 11:30 a.m. 

However, the opening was delayed for at least an hour due to technical issues with the state’s voter database, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The City Commissioners Office did not immediately respond for a request to comment on the initial setback. 

Sandra Dorsey, a financial coordinator at Temple’s Institute on Disabilities, was among those in line Tuesday. She thinks the office will help Philadelphians perform their civic duty, she said.

“Too many of my ancestors died for this privilege to do this, to vote, so I would be remiss if I didn’t do it,” Dorsey said.

Devon McLean, an undeclared sophomore who lives at The View on Montgomery Avenue near 11th Street, appreciates how close the office is to Main Campus, she said.

“This is really convenient,” McLean said. “I was really nervous about voting for mail just because of what’s been happening with the post office lately.”

The ballot box in the Liacouras Center will remain in the custody of election personnel at all times until the ballots are counted on Election Day, Deeley said.  

“It’s our right to vote,” said Theresa Thomas, a homemaker who lives on 15th near Poplar Street. “We have got to do what we have to do.”

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