The Committee of Seventy’s Election Program dates back to our founding in 1904 and is a vital part of Philadelphia’s effort to have clean and well-run elections. (Learn more about the history and evolution of Seventy's election work.) The central goals of the modern program are to inform voters, monitor and evaluate elections, and ensure system accountability.
Inform and engage voters: Seventy works to educate citizens so they can protect their franchise and cast informed votes. This continues to be a prominent goal of our Election Program, with nonpartisan information provided through Seventy’s online Voter Guide and partnerships with Ballotpedia, the League of Women Voters and others. We work with civic and community parters to share this Voter Bill of Rights and Responsibilities and other resources to eligible voters across the city. The Election Ambassador Corps and Election Innovation Challenge for area high school students are part of a new effort to get young people involved.
Monitor and evaluate elections: Seventy advocates for the modernization of elections by collecting data on election performance through its Voter Experience Survey, BeHeardPhilly poll, high school Election Ambassadors and Election Protection partners. Monitoring and evaluating what voters encounter on Election Day creates opportunities to improve the voting experience and hold elections officials accountable. Seventy supports the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights in its Election Protection efforts across Pennsylvania and urges voters to call 866-OUR-VOTE if they encounter issues at the polls.
Ensure System Accountability: Using data and other evidence gathered on Election Day, Seventy presses for greater accountability and performance from election systems. This includes partnering with other organizations to identify vulnerabilities in voting procedures and election protocol, then working with election administrators to make improvements. Primary targets of accountability continue to include greater access for disabled and Limited English Proficiency voters, as well as a more streamlined experience for the average voter. Seventy is one of more than a dozen members of the Better Philadelphia Elections Coalition focused on reforming local elections.
Online Voter Information
For more than a century, Seventy has provided comprehensive and nonpartisan information for Philadelpha voters regarding candidates, offices up for election, ballot questions and voting procedures. Candidate bios, pictures and contact information are available online in Seventy's 2016 Voter Guide. Sign up to recieve nonpartisan election information via email.
Election Data and Performance
What happens on Election Day is still dominated by anecdote. To shed light on election issues and voters' experiences at the polls, Seventy gathers data through call reports and a new online survey. Results are shared with election officials, other advocacy organizations, the media and general public to inform discussion about needed improvements in elections. Election results and open data sets are also available from the city.
Seventy distributed a pilot survey during the November 2015 municipal election that received more than 650 responses from Philadelphia and area residents. Most voters reported a smooth experience, but some issues at polling places were reported. And the final question revealed one in five respondents do not believe the "election process in Philadelphia produces fair outcomes." An important disclaimer: only rough generalizations can be drawn from the survey's nonrandom sample. The April 2016 survey recieved more than 1,000 responses. Sign up for Seventy's email list to participate in the November 2016 survey sample.
Elections and Voting 101
If you're planning a community event and hope to provide nonpartisan information about the election, contact us! We'd like to help provide support for nonpartisan workshops on voting procedures and election information. Topics could include ballot question summaries and explanations of offices on the ballot, critical voting rights, and ideas on how to engage more of the community in preparing for Election Day. If staff are unavailable to attend in-person, we're happy to talk about the needs of your particular attendees and help gather the appropriate resources. Reach us at email@example.com.
Seventy also offers training in voting procedures and Election Day rules for groups or organizations interested in observing polling places and helping voters in their neighborhood. Trained volunteers will be capable of answering basic questions about the voting process and, if necessary, directing voters, canvassers or others to the proper authority for further assistance. Please contact Patrick Christmas at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a group training.
NOTE: State law prohibits nonpartisan volunteers from entering polling places on Election Day. Individuals who wish to monitor the polls directly should seek a Poll Watching Certificate, issued for general elections by the County Board of Elections at the request of candidates or political parties. Watcher certificates for primary elections may only be requested by candidates.
Committee of Seventy staff and volunteers do not have the authority to investigate and prosecute election law violations. Suspected voter fraud, illegal electioneering or other serious election-related infractions should be reported to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. For administrative or procedural questions or issues, contact the Philadelphia County Board of Elections.