Review of the Provisional Ballots Cast in the 2012 Presidential Election May 2013

Audit Date: June 11, 2013
Audit Categories
  • Performance
Controller: Alan Butkovitz
Audit Tags
  • City Commissioner's Office,
  • Election,
  • Provisional Ballots

Executive Summary

For Immediate Release:
June 11, 2013

Contact: Harvey Rice

Butkovitz’ Audit Reveals Errors, Mistakes in Provisional Ballots Cast in Philadelphia’s 2012 Presidential Election
City Controller finds 7,637 of total provisional ballots were cast by ineligible voters

Audit of the Provisional Ballots Cast in 2012 Presidential Election

PHILADELPHIA – City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released the audit of the provisional ballots used in the 2012 Presidential Election and found about 40 percent of the 27,306 ballots cast occurred because of poll worker mistakes or errors in the creation of polling books.

“Our Office sought to determine the reasons for the widespread use of provisional ballots after there was a 116 percent increase in ballots cast from the 2008 election,” said Butkovitz.

Of the total 10,591 that were cast in error, 4,899 were from voters that were in the poll books at their correct polling place, but they should not have voted by provisional ballot. Another 4,827 provisional ballots were cast due to errors in the printing of the supplemental polling books.

According to Butkovitz, 9,078 voters cast provisional ballots because they went to the wrong polling location. More notably, 70 percent of them went to an improper polling place that was not in a geographical proximity to where they were registered.

“Provisional ballots are an important part of the election process because they serve to ensure an individual’s right to vote,” said Butkovitz. “City Commissioners need to work with state officials to identify and correct the cause of errors in the printing of the poll books.”

The Controller’s auditors found that 7,637 ballots were cast by ineligible voters, which were voters not registered in Philadelphia County, no longer in the system due to failing to vote in the past two federal elections, or who already had cast a vote on a voting machine.

“The election process is a cornerstone to our democracy,” said Butkovitz. “The voters should be confident that all aspects of the process are implemented fairly and competently.”

Other problems identified with the processing of the provisional ballots included the following:
• 79 ballots still in their sealed envelopes that were never counted.
• 73 ballots that were inappropriately counted but should have been rejected.
• Ballots that were not properly counted but should have been counted in six random samples

When compared to Allegheny County, which has a similar number of registered voters, Allegheny cast 3,812, or 616% less, provisional ballots than Philadelphia.

Some of the Controller’s additional recommendations included the following:
• The City Commissioners should perform independent reviews of provisional ballots to identify those poll workers which may require additional training.
• Require the checklist of procedures used in the poll book preparation process to be signed off and reviewed.
• Increase the election board training bonus from $20 to $50.
• Develop a new and more user friendly “Guide to Election Officers.”

“These recommendations will reduce the number of provisional ballots cast in future elections and permit the ballots to be used properly, as intended,” said Butkovitz.