Early voting has arrived in neighborhoods across Philadelphia.
City elections officials plan to open 15 new satellite elections offices where voters can request, receive, fill out, and submit a mail ballot in one stop. People can also visit the offices to register to vote, request a mail ballot to take home and submit later, or to drop off a completed mail ballot. One is in the Liacouras Center at Temple University, while the others are in public schools.
Those 15 temporary satellite offices are in addition to the two permanent elections offices, one in City Hall and one on Columbus Boulevard at Spring Garden Street.
Lisa Deeley, chair of the Philadelphia city commissioners, proposed the plan at the Sept. 23 meeting of the elections board.
The first six satellite offices opened Sept. 29, and the main office in City Hall also began allowing this type of in-person mail voting at that time. The remaining elections offices will be opened in stages at later dates, said Nick Custodio, deputy commissioner under Deeley.
The offices are open seven days a week running through Election Day on Nov. 3. They are open from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fridays through Sundays.
Mail ballots must be requested by one week before Election Day, so in that final week, the offices can be used to drop off completed ballots, but not to apply for new ones.
The city had originally planned to open all 17 locations — the 15 new satellite offices plus the two permanent ones — to early voting at once, but Custodio said elections officials are still figuring out the staffing for the sites.
“We thought … we would have the staffing in place in order to open all 17 office on the 29th,” Custodio said. “After evaluating that over the last few days, that appeared to be a risky venture, so we are switching to a more manageable rolling roll-out”
This is the first year any Pennsylvania voter can vote by mail, and election law now also requires counties to provide mail ballots on demand to voters who request them in person. That allows for a kind of in-person early voting, and the Pennsylvania Department of State has encouraged counties to open satellite elections offices to make it easier for voters to vote early.
Several suburban counties, as well as Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh and surrounding suburbs, are also planning to open multiple early voting sites.
“With these offices, we could make it easier and much more convenient for the voters of Philadelphia to exercise their vote and have their voice heard this fall,” Deeley said in a statement.