City Commissioner Candidate Marwan Kreidie

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 first thing to do will be to hold multiple public forums. Forums with poll workers, forums with polling station owners, forums with judges of elections, and most importantly forums with voters. These must take place all over the city, not just at City Hall. I recently spoke to a gentleman who had opened up his barber shop in Northwest Philly to keep at least one local polling station in his neighborhood. Because it's the only one left, the lines are around the block, they have had problems with power, and space is a big issue. No one from the city has EVER contacted him to ask what they could do to help. This was shocking to hear and must be corrected. I would identify some of the sorest needs all over the city and make a plan to provide resources to address those problems. The majority of election problems around the city take place in neighborhoods that have been overlooked for decades. How can we expect them to show up to vote when we haven't even shown that we care about them having access to something as simple as a polling station? I would also prioritize looking at the way we train our poll workers. They do the best they can, but the help the city provides them is often abysmal. If we don't take their training seriously, how can we expect them to exercise all of the care and technical expertise that we expect from them?

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?

There are a few facets to this answer. One thing I will do is what I referenced in my answer above, hold frequent public forums all over the city, to hear concerns. The next part of that, of course, is to actually address those concerns rather than just offer lip service. The City Commissioner is the first line of defense in protecting each citizen’s most fundamental right-- the right to vote. I will take that responsibility seriously. Any instance of intimidation or rumor of corruption must be thoroughly addressed. I will also publish all Commissioner meeting notes, update voters regularly during any decision making process. There is nothing top secret about what the Commissioners do, and they should act like it. I will also fight with every power afforded to me to undo the terrible decision the current Commissioners made with regard to our voting machines. If the very machines we use to cast our votes cannot be safe from fraud and operational failures, the entire process is tainted. Can the city provide generators to every polling station in case of power failure? If no, then these are not the right machines for us. Can the city personally check that the votes as they are registered are the same votes cast? If not, then these are not the right machines for us. And this doesn’t even get into the issues with cost, space, and disability access.

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?

Language and disability access are a huge part of my platform. EVERY bit of information we put out must have translations available in any language necessary. The City Commissioners assert that the new voting machines can be programmed to have multiple languages at the ready. This is an improvement, but it is far from enough. How do the current Commissioners plan on assessing what languages are necessary? I am a part of the immigrant community in Philadelphia, I know who these groups are and what they need to make their experience easier. We cannot simply translate a ballot and think that we are affording limited proficiency English speakers the same opportunities as our English speaking citizens. Where are the other languages in the information they put out online? Regarding disability access, although the current Commissioners assert that these are “100% disability accessible,” there have been myriad issues raised by those with disabilities testing out these machines. Their desire to brush that actual criticism off in favor of a nice sound byte is cynical and discriminatory. If disability access were a priority, paper ballots are by far the best option, and they would be in Harrisburg every other weekend demanding mail-in and early voting, both of which are shown to significantly assist the disabled community.

How do you intend to recruit, prepare and retain poll workers to fill the more than 8,000 neighborhood Election Board positions citywide?

Part of my solution to this is better advertising, attending neighborhood and community association meetings, and going door to door if I have to, to let citizens know about the shortage in workers. In my forums with election workers, I will find and address areas that lead to lack of retention. This was a lot of what I did as Civil Service Commissioner. I am also interested in the statewide mandate that poll workers must be a resident of the division whose poll they staff. While I understand the theoretical reasons for this practice, it has not done Philadelphians any great service. I will also work with local business owners and encourage them not only to give their workers time off to vote, as they are federally required to do, but also to encourage them to give workers a paid day off if they are willing to spend their day as a poll worker.

How will you contribute to strategic, evidence-based and high-impact voter engagement and information efforts in the City of Philadelphia?

Part of my solution to this is better advertising, attending neighborhood and community association meetings, and going door to door if I have to, to let citizens know about the shortage in workers. In my forums with election workers, I will find and address areas that lead to lack of retention. This was a lot of what I did as Civil Service Commissioner. I am also interested in the statewide mandate that poll workers must be a resident of the division whose poll they staff. While I understand the theoretical reasons for this practice, it has not done Philadelphians any great service. I will also work with local business owners and encourage them not only to give their workers time off to vote, as they are federally required to do, but also to encourage them to give workers a paid day off if they are willing to spend their day as a poll worker.

Patrick Christmas