With reports of long lines and voter intimidation across at polling stations across Philadelphia, I decided to take a three-and-a-half mile stroll around Center City District to get a sense of what is going on. The talk on the street in Center City was mostly about the election, with one in every 10 people, give or take, wearing an I voted sticker. There were several Hillary stickers, and even a few t-shirts, but not one Trump sign, banner or glorious Make America Great Again hat to be seen.
10:07 AM: My first stop was 100 South Broad Street, between Chestnut and Sansom, where the line was literally out the door. In the 10 or so minutes I was outside taking photos, the line barely moved. People seemed annoyed, perhaps at the person pointing a camera at them while they stood in a long line.
Inside, things were more chaotic. Lines snaked back and forth until people reached the voting booth. While inside, I stood next to a videographer trying to get a similar sense of the room, when a woman working the polling station rushed up to us to tell us to leave. The exchange went thusly:
- Her: You cannot be in here. You have to leave.
- Me: I was just trying to get a sense of –
- Her: The sheriff is here.
- Me: The sheriff is here? At the polls?
- Her: His office is in this building.
- Me: Did you just threaten to have me arrested for not leaving? We’re talking next to the door. I’m right next to the door, leaving. There was no need to escalate this.
- Her: You aren’t the first people to come in here today.
- Me: Okay, but the anger is wildly unnecessary.
- Her: …
And then I left. But I did snag this really dark photo! I hope I’m not arrested by the sheriff.
10:38 AM: After a detour through Reading Terminal Market for a Miller’s Twist soft pretzel, I headed to Chinatown and the polling station at the Chinese Christian Church at 225 North 10th street, between Race and Vine.
There was a table across the street working to get out the vote. Several people were going up to the table on their way to the line. The line was long — not as long outside as the one on Broad — and volunteers were putting people in two lines, split alphabetically by last name.
Several passersby seemed interested in the line, while others were happy to go about their day.
10:50 AM: No threat of arrest in Chinatown, I made the trek up to 1600 Arch, to The Phoenix. If you weren’t looking for a polling place, you’d absolutely miss it. I know because I did, twice. The area looks no different than any other day in Philly, other than a few people wearing I Voted stickers in the area. There was no line outside the building, but there was this snazzy sign on the door.
A friendly couple exited the building and I asked them if they had voted. Surely assuming I was an exit poller, they said no — the man did have a European accent, so anecdotally, he may have been telling the truth – but they told me there was at least 25 people in line inside.
11:07 AM: The walk to 1801 John F. Kennedy Blvd. was detoured slightly to 1800 Ben Franklin Parkway, which was frustrating for someone who had already trekked nearly two miles around the city. It was more frustrating that 18th St. was rife with construction, and after a brief saunter around the Comcast Building, I arrived at 1801 JFK to see…this:
There was no polling station at that address, and yet when I searched for polling stations before my adventure, one came up at that address. When I asked a construction worker if he knew of a polling place in the area, he said he didn’t know of one, but if it was that hard to find, “I hope it’s one the Trump voters are looking for.”
11:20 AM: 1919 Chestnut was the next location we tagged, but that was an old folks home that had clear no trespassing signs. I thought back to my earlier argument about the sheriff, and imagined there being canes and walkers involved, and decided to mosey along after taking this photo of an adorable old couple going to vote.
11:28 AM: The next stop was a church at 17th and Spruce. They had A LOT of signs telling people where to vote.
They also had this family taking a photo outside the polling place. They’re with her.
As I walked to the entrance, a woman (pictured next to the family above) looked at my I Voted sticker and said, “I wanted to make sure it was the right one.” When I asked her what she meant, she said she was making sure it was a Hillary sticker. (It’s not, it’s just a regular I Voted sticker.) The woman, wearing a Penn t-shirt and speaking a deep southern drawl said she wore her Hillary pin every day this week, but forgot it today, of all days. She was headed back to get it. Or headed out to stare at other strangers in hopes they are supporting the right one.
Inside there was, at most, a smattering of voters, though a steady stream of voters were going in and out. As I exited, two old ladies crossed the street (sadly, I wasn’t able to help them) and I overheard one ask the other “where are all the people.” Lady, be thankful they are five blocks away.
Speaking of which, I went back to my initial stop, not to get arrested, but to see if the lines were any shorter. On the way I saw this woman, carrying a USA sign from Monday night’s Clinton-Obama-Springsteen-Bon Jovi rally.
12:03 PM: Back at 100 South Broad and the lines were longer than before.
The AFT volunteers were camped out at the back of the line, giving donuts to voters, presumably if they told them they voted for Hillary.
A convertible drove down Broad St., honking at voters while carrying a pro-Hillary sign. People on their lunch break chatted calmly in line as a local videographer collected b-roll.
As I walked back, completing my 3.5 mile stroll, an angry tattooed man walked down Broad St. screaming at those in line, saying, “she lies. She kills American citizens.” The crowd stared at him, silently, except for one construction worker, who quietly whispered in his direction, “Go Trump.”