The National President of the League of Women Voters visited Philadelphia this week as the culminating leg of a tour that included seven swing states in this election year.
Kay Maxwell, joined by LWV National Board Member Olivia Thorne and former Philadelphia Chapter President Heidi Gold, stopped into Hausbrandt coffee shop on 15th Street Wednesday for an exclusive interview with The Temple News.
“One of the key elements of this message is the provincial ballot,” explained Maxwell of her extensive speaking tour.
Provisional ballots are designed as a safeguard against registered voters’ names not appearing on the lists available to polling officials on Election Day. In that event, a provisional ballot may be cast in an envelope marked with the voter’s name and address. The envelope is sent to the courthouse, and if it turns out the voter’s name is on the list, the ballot is opened and counted. If that name is not on the official list, the envelope is never opened.
“Before 2000, only about half the states had any kind of provisional ballot; Pennsylvania had none,” said Maxwell. “They’re not going to take the time on Election Day to determine whether in fact you are or are not on the list. What they will do…is give you a provisional ballot, which will be a paper ballot.”
Maxwell stressed that voters must know to ask for a provisional ballot in the event that their name is not on the list at the polls. Voters who do not ask for a provisional ballot in light of voting difficulties may not be offered the opportunity.
Maxwell and the LWV have adopted a five-point system to help voters, particularly first-timers, come Tuesday, whether knowing to ask for a provisional ballot or simply navigating their polling place. Dubbed “5 Things You Need to Know on Election Day,” the non-partisan informational campaign is aimed at instructing voters on how to execute their right to vote on November 2.
The LWV suggests that voters remember to bring proper identification, read instructional signs at the polling location, ask poll workers for help, and especially take the time necessary to make sure their vote is cast and counted. Their five-point program is outlined on LWV Web sites www.dnet.org and www.lwv.org/voter.
Much of the LWV’s work also focuses on campaign finance reform. Maxwell suggested that work is still to be done in this area, but that conditions are improving. As far as the current election, she said that “now we have these 527 organizations [groups which are not affiliated with either campaign directly but support one candidate over another] that have sprouted up, so campaign finance reform never ends.”
Gold offered the phone number for the Philadelphia Chapter’s office; on Election Day, voters with pressing questions or difficulty voting are encouraged to call the hotline at (215) 829-9495. A national hotline is available as well at (866) OUR-VOTE.
At the polls, Maxwell stressed that students should take the time to “get it right,” and make their ballot count.
Thorne, a longtime veteran of poll work on Election Day, noted that most poll workers are “thrilled if somebody asks them a question…they’re not as mean and evil as they might look,” she added. “They do tend to get a little stressed …but generally speaking it’s really a nice feeling [for them] to know that somebody understood and did it right.”
Gold, Thorne, and Maxwell also stressed that students should consider volunteering as poll workers. The pay rate varies by position; interested students should contact the County Board of Elections for details.
Leah Blewett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.