For each of the 1,692 voting divisions in the city, election officials have to find a physical spot where people can cast their ballot.
Identifying that many appropriate locales is no easy task — and the challenges have resulted in some very uniquely Philly voting locations.
One of the biggest hurdles: Each polling place must be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a not-straightforward ask in a city where entire neighborhoods were built before these considerations were a thing. There are so few suitable spots, according to City Commissioner Al Schmidt, that most of the ones that do work are tasked with doing double duty. (Northeast Philly’s Pollock High School acts as polling place for eight different divisions, for example.) The dearth of options forces officials to get creative.
“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Schmidt told Billy Penn. “You want to make sure you comply with federal law, so sometimes they’re located in less orthodox locations.”
The city first utilizes as much public space as it can — schools, rec centers, libraries. Then officials fill in the gaps. Sometimes people volunteer their own private spaces, and sometimes inspectors recruit places they think would work. Each must be able to accept the deliveries of voting machines a week before the election, and then have someone available to open up shop at 6:30 a.m. and close down around 9 p.m. For private locations, there’s a cash incentive: the city pays $110 per division assigned.
Schmidt cited churches and barber shops as examples of “unorthodox” polling locations. But those aren’t even the weirdest ones Billy Penn found — check out the list below.
The Mummers Museum
Yes, a bunch of South Philly residents will cast their votes at the Mummers Museum this November. Have you ever heard anything more Philadelphia in your life?
(Fun fact: this location is Schmidt’s favorite.)
The place where they make Philly’s road signage
Alongside North Philly’s Juniata Park, there is a place called the Traffic Signal & Sign Shop. Run by the city, the shop churns out traffic signs all day long to post around Philly streets. It’s also where some folks from the city’s 42nd ward will vote.
A yoga studio
If being around people who are exercising makes you feel personally attacked, then at least this time you know it’s for the greater good. Folks near the Art Museum will vote at Studio 1831.
A bowling alley
In deep South Philly, St. Monica Lanes will be open all day on Nov. 6 to fulfill both your voting and bowling needs.
Approximately one million barber shops
Barber shops and beauty salons are a surprisingly common polling place in Philadelphia. There are at least a dozen of them helping out the city to serve as polling places this November, in West Oak Lane, Germantown and many other neighborhoods.
People’s literal homes
At least seven people in Philadelphia stepped up to the plate for this election: They volunteered their actual houses to act as polling places for the entire day. Now that’s fulfilling your civic duty.
The handful of single-family homes acting as polling places are mostly in Northeast Philly — a neighborhood Schmidt said is desperately lacking suitable locations. The situation is such, Schmidt said, that if there weren’t homeowner volunteers, some people might “have to drive a mile to vote.”
A hoagie shop
At Cottman and Castor avenues, the local branch of Lee’s Hoagie House acts as a polling place. Grab a sandwich while you cast your ballot (yes, the store can still legally sell things while acting as a polling place).
If you were already planning to wear a tuxedo to the polls, fantastic news: you will fit right in casting your vote at Northeast Philly’s Regal Ballroom, a polling place that doubles as a venue for weddings and special events.