City Commissioner Candidate Jen Devor
What specific actions would you take to create and implement a strategic plan for improving Philadelphia elections and the voting experience that includes collaboration with various stakeholders inside and outside city government?
The lack of clear, concise communication with voters about their rights is one of the major hurdles to our democracy. I believe this office should function as a public information agency, producing easy-to-understand, accessible voting information year-round. I’ll not only streamline & increase communications directly with citizens, but I’ll build a coalition of organizations already in our communities to ensure that every citizen is empowered to vote in every election. This includes making sure every eligible Philadelphian who can vote, knows that they can & does so without issue. I will also work with the school district & educators around the city to ensure that every student is taught about the power of their voice so that they vote as soon as they are eligible. Additionally, I’ll make improvements to the way we conduct Election Day in our city, including filling vacancies on election boards, offering better trainings & forcing consequences on bad actors. I’ll work with community organizations & hire organizers in the office to educate communities about the importance of these positions & increase the number of filled positions each year. This office can be a powerful advocate for state election code reform. The Commissioners should be actively presenting data, research, & testimony to push for a progressive agenda including open primaries, ballot randomization, no-excuse absentee ballots & lowering the voting age.
What will you do to protect the integrity of city elections and build public trust in the process, safeguarding against fraud, intimidation, corruption and operational failures?
I believe without visibility, you can’t have accountability & the City Commissioner’s Office currently has very little visibility. Many Philadelphians don’t know it exists, let alone understand the importance of its mission. As a result, there is little accountability for its actions & little public trust for the incredibly important decisions the Commissioners make. The purchase of our new voting system is a strong example of this. The process was not transparent & left many Philadelphians disappointed in the lack of consideration that was given to voters & poll workers. Commissioners should also publically interact with other areas of local government, including the Mayor’s Office of Education, LGBTQ Affairs, People with Disabilities, Sustainability & more, as well as hold regularly schedule meetings inclusive of all constituents, particularly underrepresented communities. We should also participate in the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. In addition, during every election there are unfortunate reports of wrongful electioneering, bullying & other illegal activities. Too often these acts go without consequences because of incomplete or incorrect reporting. As Commissioner, I will not only work to better protect voting rights & increase public trust, but will also educate people on how to properly report illegal activity at the polls so that offenders can be brought to justice.
How will you guarantee equal access and a smooth, high-quality voting experience for Philadelphia’s diverse electorate, including our disabled and limited English proficiency voters?
Under my leadership, the Commissioners Office will take preventative action to ensure equal access for every voter at every election. Year-round, we will partner with organizations that serve underrepresented communities including returning citizens, those with disabilities, limited English proficiency, transgender individuals voting for the first time who may not have matching IDs, & many others that may face barriers. We will provide voter information, including voter eligibility, information on accessibility challenges at each polling location, offer translated materials in advance & clearer information on how to obtain day-of services like translators or assistance in the voting booth. The Commissioners Office should exist as a public, welcoming space with an open-door policy to help everyone, as well as actively seek out opportunities to provide information that may not otherwise be easily accessible.
How do you intend to recruit, prepare and retain poll workers to fill the more than 8,000 neighborhood Election Board positions citywide?
There is currently a high vacancy of Election Board seats. This is a crisis & we need fully staffed election boards. I would advocate to change the format of how polls are staffed by allowing 2 shifts & removing the barrier of the position being elected. If we advertise the opportunities across the city & make it easier for people to participate, we can fill all positions. College students, seniors in high school & anyone who wants to be civically engaged in their community will be targeted with coordinated outreach campaigns. Having worked my polls for many elections, I would also create a more hands-on training experience. Workers will practice checking-in voters through role-play, experience the machines & fully understand the ADA-compliant accessories. Poll workers will be informed about accessibility challenges at their polling place & given info to help troubleshoot FAQs. There will be customer service training with shared best practices. At the end of the training, participants will receive a self-graded quiz to be used as a mechanism to confirm that the training information was absorbed. With an outreach strategy & better trainings not only will we keep these positions full, but we will also create a smoother & more welcoming experience for all voters.
How will you contribute to strategic, evidence-based and high-impact voter engagement and information efforts in the City of Philadelphia?
As City Commissioner, I will make sure to stress-test all current operations to inform the Commissioners Office about voter engagement & turnout. To increase underlying confidence in elections I will advocate for the mandatory use of post-election Risk Limiting Audits, a proven & efficient method to check the accuracy of vote tallies by auditing a number of paper ballots (determined by established statistical methods) against the electronic tallies. With confidence in our elections systems, the City Commissioners can use data from each individual election to evaluate voter engagement & information to inform opportunities for increasing voter engagement & turnout. I commit to publishing these findings in a useful, easy-to-read report that offers analysis & solutions to continue to improve year after year. I will also engage my counterparts across the Commonwealth to better understand & respond to voter data so we can work together to increase our power here in Pennsylvania.