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PA Working Families sends voters card with wrong polling place Special

By Jessica Zuzierla     Nov 3, 2014 in Politics
Philadelphia - PA Working Families' attempt to get voters to the polls backfired when they sent mailers listing the wrong polling places. This Digital Journalist received a card and confirmed the information is wrong. Was this a mistake, and how can we fix it?
With Election Day coming quickly on Tuesday, November 2, voters, political groups, and the politicians running for election this year are trying their best to get as many people to the polls as possible.
This includes PA Working Families, which sent out about 30,000 direct mail post cards to what the group is calling, “occasional voters,” according to information uncovered by CBS Local. PA Working Families is run by Working Families Organization, a 504(C)(4) group, and is affiliated with the Working Families Party based in New York.
The group’s attempt to remind voters of their polling places backfired, as evidenced by the hundreds of voters who reported that the mailers contained wrong polling place information. PA Working Families and the WFO have since issued an apology to those who received the mailer.
First hand experience
This Digital Journalist received one such mailer, and I can confirm it contains information that is wrong. I did so by double-checking that my polling place hadn’t changed by using the Votes PA website, and I then called the Pennsylvania hotline for voter registrations at 1-866-OUR-VOTE to report the problem.
I was eventually able to speak with Gregory Irving, Acting Voter Registration Administrator from the Philadelphia County Board of Elections on Saturday.
Though Irving could not comment regarding who sent the mailers at the time of the call, he was able to say the office had received a number of calls reporting the same problem. He directed me to contact Commissioner Al Schmidt for official comment, which I did, but I have yet to receive a response.
Postcard contents
The card itself appears legitimate. At the top of the front of the mailer is the name, “Philadelphia Voter Education and Information Initiative.”
The reverse side of the card lists my name and address (blacked out for privacy), my supposed voting record, my supposed polling place address, the supposed return address, and a small illegible seal underneath it.
The 1-866-OUR-VOTE phone number is also listed on this side of the card, as is the web address for the Department of State. Both of these pieces of information are correct.
Each of the other pieces of information is wrong, or at best, questionable.
Honest mistake or something else?
Name of implied sender on card: After searching for more than an hour online for the “Philadelphia Voter Education and Information Initiative, it does not seem to exist. The search engine returns several variations of that name, but none are exact matches. After investigating each of the variations, none seem to be involved with the mailing, or with PA Working Families.
Return address, seal, and mail processing: According to the stamp with my address the card was processed at a post office in 19152, which directly conflicts with the return address that appears on the card as 106 S. 60th St. Philadelphia, PA, 19139.
Google Maps shows this return address as a boarded up house.
According to City of Philadelphia public records, the address is a single family home owned by the 60th St. Corridor.
The 60th St. Corridor development is, according to its website:
"A joint effort between Neighborhood Restorations/WPRE , an experienced developer who over the past 20 years redeveloped over 800 properties in the West Philadelphia area and The Partnership Community Development Corporation."
Identification seal: Under the return address is a seal that, under magnification, reads, “UAW 2179-123.” Searching this exact combination of letters and numbers returns no matches. Searching for just the "UAW 2179" part of the seal - something an average person would do - brings up Local UAW 2179 based in New York City, NY. For all intents and purposes, the seal makes it appear as if Local 2179 sent the mailing. However, Local 2179 has no obvious connection to the WFO or WFP.
Voting record: The card states I voted in 2010 and 2012, but not in 2008, which is wrong. I voted in every election since becoming a Philadelphia resident in 2007 with the exception of 2009. For the record, an emergency that did now allow time to request an absentee ballot kept me away.
Polling place: Probably most important, the card listed my polling place as the Kennedy Apts. located at 1901 JFK Blvd., which is not and never has been my polling place.
In fact, according to the most recent district maps, the polling place listed on the card is more than 8 miles away from my home.
A map of my voting district that includes my actual polling place  my home  and the address of the p...
A map of my voting district that includes my actual polling place, my home, and the address of the polling place identified on the mailing.
My actual polling place is within walking distance at Johnnies Fine Italian Cuisine Restaurant on Comly Street.
Confirmation of my actual polling place.
Confirmation of my actual polling place.
PA Working Families apologizes
The PA Working Families issued a statement apologizing for the blunder, saying it was an honest mistake:
“Working Families mailed 30,000 occasional voters in Philadelphia to remind them to vote and provide voting times and their polling place locations … we failed to notice an error in how the mail merge was set up, and as a result, many of those postcards give an incorrect polling place. It was a human error, and a big one, but an honest one.”
What does "mail merge error" mean exactly? The polling place changed two years ago for this area, but it resulted in having to walk a whole extra 500 yards to Johnnies instead of being at the end of my block. How did the computer choose to list Kennedy Apts. as my polling place?
A bigger problem?
There could be an even bigger problem though. What could be a bigger problem than sending voters to the wrong polling place? What about having no way to identify who sent the card?
The only good information includes the phone number and web address, neither of which connects the caller or web surfer to PA Working Families. Since the other information isn't credible, the card neither identifies PA Working Families, the Working Families Organization, or the Working Families Party as the sender, nor implies that any of these groups could have sent it. The only reason I know PA Working Families sent the mail is because CBS Local reported it.
Eleven hours and counting...
PA Working Families states in its apology that it plans to call voters who received the mailers to give them the correct polling place information.
At the time of publishing, this Digital Journalist is still waiting for that call - two full days after receiving the mailing, and with less than 11 hours to go before the polls open.
Whether you are one of the 30,000 who received a mailer from PA Working Families, or just aren’t sure where you polling place is or not, visit the official Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners website here at Philadelphia Votes and enter your address.
Alternatively, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE. The more people who vote, the more voices are represented come Election Day.
Note: This is an evolving story and will be updated as the requests for comment made to all of the above aforementioned agencies are answered.
More about Philadelphia elections, Elections, Election fraud, 2014 midterm elections, Voters
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