For the June 2 primary elections, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) partnered with Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition (SEAMAAC) to monitor several poll sites in South Philadelphia The election was conducted amidst uncertainty and heightened anxiety due to the Covid-19 pandemic, questions concerning mail-in ballots, and demonstrations related to the police killing of George Floyd.
Poll monitors observed the following issues:
• Voters were instructed to go home to complete their provisional ballots, and to return to the poll site once the ballots were completed, rather than marking and submitting the provisional ballot at the poll site, which is the proper procedure (Seafarers Union Hall, 2604 S 4th St.);
• Voters were instructed to mail back their provisional ballots; no masks or PPE at the poll site (McDaniel School, 1801 S 22nd St.);
• Long lines and no social distancing (DiSilvestro Rec Center, 1701 S 15th St);
• A person claiming to be a partisan poll watcher for the Republican Party was harassing voters who entered the poll site; she was asked to leave, but later returned (Mastery Thomas Charter School, 927 Johnston St);
• Voters attempted to drop off completed absentee ballots in-person at poll sites.
AALDEF and SEAMAAC reported all issues to the Philadelphia City Solicitor’s Election Day hotline, as well as to the Election Protection Hotline (866-OUR-VOTE).
“Many voters are unfamiliar with absentee ballots and provisional ballots, but they expect poll workers to know the proper procedures to ensure that voters’ ballots will be properly counted. We hope that poll workers will be much better informed and trained in advance of the November Presidential Election,” said AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung.
Poll monitors were stationed at six poll sites in South Philadelphia with large numbers of Asian American voters. SEAMAAC staff were also stationed at poll sites that were closed due to poll site consolidation, in order to direct voters to their correct poll sites and arrange taxi service for voters with difficulty traveling to the new poll site.
“We were very pleased to work once again with SEAMAAC to monitor elections. We will continue to work with local community partners to promote civic engagement,” said Jerry Vattamala, AALDEF Democracy Program Director. He continued: “The right to vote is fundamental, and no matter the precarious circumstances we are in, we must protect this fundamental right.”
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