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About those provisional ballots

As the City Commissioners try to figure out why Philadelphians cast twice as many provisional ballots in the 2012 election as in 2008, one number was especially mysterious.

The City Commissioners on Wednesday offered a a look at the initial findings of an internal review of the high numbers of provisional ballots cast in this year's presidential election.

The review by Greg Irving, Acting Voter Registration Administrator for the Commissioners, has not yet reached a conclusion as to why 27,355 voters cast provisional ballots this year, about twice as many as in 2008. Voters cast provisional ballots when their names are not in polling books where they vote.

The high number of provisional ballots in 2012 led to widespread criticism of the three City Commissioners, Anthony Clark, Al Schmidt and Stephanie Singer. They have been trying to figure out what happened.

After reviewing the provisionals, Irving said 19,670 were included in the certified election results. The figure is less than 27,355 because some people who cast provisional ballots lived in other counties, were not registered to vote or had their registrations cancelled.

Of the 19,670, 14,407 were in the poll books or in supplemental sheets, which are printed by the city after the deadline for the poll books. Irving was not sure why poll workers could not find those voters but suggested improved training might help in the next election.

The big mystery, though, was why 5,263 people registered to vote in Philadelphia were not in the pool books or on the supplemental sheets. Some of them were voters who registered to vote before turning 18 but reached voting age by election day. The registration status of those voters was not properly changed before the poll books and supplemental sheets were printed, Irving said.

But he said that did not explain the entire number and said there seemed to be a problem with the database that caused some names to be excluded from supplemental sheets.

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