City Commissioner Candidate Lisa Deeley
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?
Since taking office in 2016, I have worked to improve an office that was failing. We have started to improve poll worker trainings by sending a survey to all those who take the class to see where we can improve and implement those changes. I have worked with City Council to get a poll worker raise for the first time in 20 years. This May, we will be starting a pilot program to have student poll workers. We have also purchased new electronic poll books which will revolutionize the way we vote and will enable us to update registrations up until the day before an election. If a voter goes to the wrong location or gets in the wrong division’s line at a multi-division polling place, the poll worker will be able to tell them exactly where to go to vote instantly instead of having to call in and wait to find out. Education and greater voter inclusion is at the core of my commitment to public service. A woman asked me at a community meeting about registering newly naturalized citizens to vote the day they are sworn-in as citizens. In response, I worked together with U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle to pass a law that requires every new citizen to be provided a voter registration form at their swearing-in ceremony.
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?
The commissioners’ job is to ensure that all Philadelphians have a safe and easy voting experience. In 2016, then-candidate Trump put a national spotlight on Philadelphia, claiming there would be rampant fraud and we were able to put on an election that ran smoothly. We have made many improvements since then so that our next presidential election will be run even more smoothly. New voter-verified ballot marking machines that have passed both federal accreditation and the Governor’s Blue Ribbon commission will ensure that all Philadelphians can feel safe with their vote.
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?
The last time Philadelphia got new voting machines, we did not even consider people with disabilities and what they need to vote. It was vitally important to me that we did not do that again. I met with Disability Rights’ Activists about their experiences and what they need to have a smooth and simple voting experience. They stressed the importance of a system the those with mobility issue can use as well as a system that can read out the ballot via headphones for those with sight loss. Most important, they stressed their right to vote in the same manner as their peers, because separate is never equal. The new machines will also be able to be built out for language access so that Philadelphians who speak a different language will be able to switch the ballot into the language they are most comfortable with. These often over-looked citizens were a vital part of my decision-making process in selecting new voting machines, and I am thrilled that I was able to use my position to ensure their rights are protected.
How do you intend to recruit, prepare and retain poll workers to fill the more than 8,000 neighborhood Election Board positions citywide?
Our work to secure a $20 raise will help ensure poll worker retention. Also, as I previously mentioned, our new student poll worker program will help recruit a new generation of poll workers to help with implementing the new electronic poll books. The hope is to retain the workers after they finish the program to fill in vacancies in poll worker jobs. We have also done specific outreach to the disability rights community and immigrant communities to recruit members of those communities to be poll workers. This will help ensure that our poll workers reflect our city’s diversity.
How will you contribute to strategic, evidence-based and high-impact voter engagement and information efforts in the City of Philadelphia?
Before I was elected, the office did not even have a Facebook or a Twitter. I made sure we got those important informational tools and that they are used regularly to dispense information right to were most people get it now: their phones. I also completely overhauled the commissioner website and made it simple and straightforward for people to get access to campaign finance reports, ensuring there is transparency about where politicians are getting their donations from. In addition, we do semi-annual PSAs with the NAACP and other community leaders and elected officials. And I work with the School District to make educational presentations about civics and voting to schools across our city.