More than 3,400 mail-in ballots in Philadelphia at risk of rejection because the local election board has not reviewed all of them, according to a leading election lawyer who submitted the thousands of pages of election-related documents a federal judge ordered the city to release.
The lawyer, Scott T. Sanders, said the documents included more than 4,400 mail-in ballots that have not been reviewed by state election officials. That is nearly three times as many ballots as the city has in its voter file.
Mr. Sanders said the U.S. Justice Department had informed him last week that it is “likely” that the Philadelphia Board of Elections cannot make use of the mail-in ballots.
“There are at least 3,400 ballots that have not been processed and are at risk of not being processed,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview.
Mr. Sanders said the city filed an emergency motion in U.S. District Court, asking for his help in determining the status of those ballots, which would have been in the hands of the state of Pennsylvania.
But the attorney who brought the lawsuit on behalf of independent candidates said he had “no idea of the number;” he said that by his calculations, that number exceeded 400.
“This is a massive breach of trust by the board,” said Mr. Sanders, the director of the Election Law Reform Project at the Brennan Center for Justice, after the release of the documents.
Mr. Sanders said he has been in touch with city officials, including Mayor Michael Nutter, but does not expect any action on the mail-in ballots until the board completes its review process.
The documents released by the court included letters from election officials at the time of the votes in July 2000 and in June 2008. The documents showed they were given a choice of either reviewing or rejecting the mail-in ballots.
The city initially had to release about 3,400 pages of documents that were prepared by staff at the time of the votes, but a senior official said that because of the volume of materials, the city is reviewing most of them now. The records also included voting information.
Mr. Sanders also said that the Philadelphia-area law firm that represented the city on one side of the case filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of the candidates and their campaign committees.