Project Vote had 11 observers at 16 polling sites but logged only 36 calls from confused or stymied voters, says the group's policy director for election administration, Celeste Taylor -- a far cry from the thousands of calls last November's presidential election engendered. Low turnout may have helped the May 17 primary stay relatively glitch-free, although that's certainly not the group's goal.
Taylor says volunteers concentrated on polls in Garfield, Hill District, North Side, East Liberty and Homewood, "a broad enough cross section of Pittsburgh neighborhoods" that allowed the group to "reach African Americans and low-income people who tend to be disenfranchised more than others."
Most of the calls the group received were requests for polling site location help or information on what identification voters needed to bring. One caller reported a poll opening late, and Taylor took statements from four people trying to vote at the same Stanton Heights polling place who found their party affiliation switched to "none," leaving them unable to vote for anything but referenda. They should have been offered provisional ballots but were not, Taylor notes. Project Vote intends to investigate. County Elections Division Manager Mark Wolosik was not available for comment by press time.
On the positive side, the county's poll locator Web site worked well and there were certainly enough provisional ballots this time, she says.
If the past few elections have taught her anything, Taylor says, it's that "You need to make the experience of actually voting painless and friendly. I think there needs to be less emphasis on [watching for] people trying to commit fraud. Because you can't get enough people to vote as it is."