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Read the news of the day in less than 10 minutes — not that we’re counting.

Boy, people aren’t that excited about the upcoming primary election.

Here’s one way to tell: Follow the pace of the absentee ballots. Per the City Commissioners Office, 1,784 absentee ballots had been requested, and 509 had been turned in as of Tuesday.

In 2007, the last time there was a competitive mayoral primary, 3,220 absentee ballots were turned in. This year’s total appears headed closer toward the 2011 total, when Philadelphians cast 1,672 absentee ballots.

The 2007 and 2011 numbers are estimates. Those totals don’t include any absentee ballot user who has moved away from Philadelphia since 2011 and do include absentee ballot users who have moved into Philadelphia since then. It’s also possible that more people could still request an absentee ballot. They just don’t have much longer to do so.

Next Tuesday, the week before Election Day, marks the deadline for requesting one. Those approved for an absentee ballot can wait until the Friday before the election to submit their vote that way.

The Friday after the election, a team at the Board of Elections office on Delaware and Spring Garden starts counting the absentee ballots. They separate the ballots from the envelopes that feature the absentee voter’s name and then count them manually.

Most of the time, absentee ballots matter little to an election. Enough votes usually separate the candidates from each other on election night to declare a winner. Last election provided an exception.

In the 2nd District, Kenyatta Johnson led Barbara Capozzi by 72 votes after the machine votes had been calculated. It wasn’t until 155 absentee ballots were counted that he could actually be declared the winner about a week after the election.

But absentee votes can actually swing elections, and they have locally. The outcome of a mayoral election for a small Burlington County city in 1986 came down to a single absentee ballot vote.

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...