I wanted to thank City Paper for its coverage of election integrity issues ["Historic Vote Saw Ups and Downs at the Polls," Nov. 12]. One area of concern raised by the article, however, was alleged complaints by poll workers regarding election-protection poll watchers. While I cannot speak to the specific experiences of these poll workers, I can address the consistent quality of recruitment and training provided for our outstanding corps of volunteer election-protection poll watchers.
Our Pennsylvania VOICE election-protection partners coordinated a program to protect voters' rights across the state. Our field program placed trained volunteers at over 1,200 polling places, supported by a network of qualified attorneys and paralegals. Field volunteers were required to go through a two-hour training prior to Election Day, while all legal volunteers were provided with training in Pennsylvania election law.
Our partner organizations -- including Committee of 70, A. Phillip Randolph Institute, Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), ACORN and Coalition of Black Trade Unionists -- provided 300 volunteers at 183 polling sites in Allegheny County, as well as 952 volunteers in Philadelphia and Delaware counties. Additionally, PA VOICE partners and members of the Pennsylvania Youth Voice collaborative provided election-protection training, volunteers and coordination in other Pennsylvania counties and on college campuses across the state.
We did our best to ensure we had capable volunteers. Importantly, too, our efforts in civic participation are based on peer-to-peer initiatives driven by our communities. That strategy is precisely the opposite of the standard "parachute in the out-of-town volunteers" practice employed by many partisan campaigns. Our nonpartisan volunteers were recruited principally from the area communities where we were providing election-protection resources, because we maintain a strong philosophy of building strength from within our community. While we certainly welcome volunteers from around the country, only three of our Allegheny County volunteers were from outside the County.
We took pride in the work of our volunteers and partner organizations to develop the best election-administration standards in the country.
-- Pat Clark
(Editor's note: Clark is the state consultant for Pennsylvania Voice. He is also the husband of CP associate editor Al Hoff, which just proves we don't know how to make anybody happy.)