Some Black voters in Philly say they’re suspicious of mail-in ballots

Donnell Drinks, election protection coordinator with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, wants Black voters to take their resiliency to the polls (Screencap The Philadelphia Tribune).

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PHILADELPHIA — Some members of Philadelphia’s communities of color are not too excited about the new statewide vote-by-mail system.

For many, historical distrust in the system, fueled by misinformation about the electoral process, is enough reason to be wary about mail-in ballots, according to Donnell Drinks, election protection coordinator with the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

He noted though uncomfortable and hesitant about casting in-person ballots due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Black and brown voters would rather risk their lives and health to be at the polls on Nov. 3.

“They do not trust the mail-in system” and are afraid that their votes might not be counted, said Drinks. “Most of these disenfranchised communities feel historically removed from the voting process. They feel left behind for so long, and it is hard to educate and prepare these voters when we [ourselves] are uncertain about what we are preparing them for.”

The state began allowing no-excuse mail-in voting this year. Voters can apply for ballots online or in person at their local elections office, and mail the ballots or deposit them in a ballot drop box.

The first election in which people could vote by mail was the June primary election.

President Donald Trump’s campaign sued the state in June, alleging the drop boxes violate the state and federal constitutions because they could be used to commit electoral fraud. Trump’s campaign is seeking to bar the use of the drop boxes in the general election.

The U.S. Postal Service recently warned 46 states and Washington, D.C. that ballots might not arrive at elections offices in time to be counted in the upcoming general election.

State and county election officials believe mailing in ballots far ahead of time reduces the chances of ballots not being received or processed.

“Applying now and getting started on the process” will increase the effectiveness of the system, City Commissioner Omar Sabir said Wednesday during a roundtable discussion hosted by the Take Action Philly coalition.

The city has more than 1 million voters. Already, the City Commissioners have approved more than 17,000 vote-by-mail applications.

Ballots will be mailed out sometime in September. For increased transparency, voters are urged to provide an email address during the application process, which they could use to track their ballots from start to end.

However, if a voter is unable to start early on the mail-in process, officials said, they should be prepared to vote in person.