17-year-old Jack DiPrimio went to Harrisburg to file his delegate petitions in person, even though it's not required

For people who want to be official delegates to the 2020 Democratic National Convention, it’s crunch time.

The deadline to turn in petitions for district-level positions is Tuesday at 5 p.m., at which point 250 signatures must be submitted to the Pennsylvania State Department. Some already have the requirements all wrapped up, but others have their work cut out for them.

“I’m almost there,” said Johanna Mudry, an East Passyunk resident pledging for Elizabeth Warren. “It’ll be a mad push for me on Monday.”

Canvassing for signatures is a tough process, the Philadelphians who’ve been doing it for the last month told Billy Penn. It requires hours of walking their neighborhoods and talking to strangers. They have to approach strangers in coffee shops, diners and bars. Some of the younger delegates have postponed homework, put off extracurriculars, and leveraged teachers as potential signees.

Built into the process is a healthy serving of getting ignored, rejected and yelled at — one person even said they came into contact with a political opponent who was toting a firearm.

“I went up to New Hampshire and went to this farmhouse on the coast, and this man was very angry at me,” said Jack DiPrimio, a 17-year-old who wants to pledge for Warren. “I made it halfway up his driveway, and he saw the campaign logo and pulled out an AR-15.”

After submitting valid petitions, the delegate-hopefuls leave their fates in the hands of voters. Whether or not they attend the DNC will come down to the primary results, decided in the April 28 election.

“It’s kind of a ‘sit back and wait,’” said Daniel Laufer, a North Philly resident and potential delegate for Bernie Sanders, “until we see how many delegates we’re sending to the convention.”

Daniel Laufer at a Bernie Sanders delegate debate watch party in January Credit: Courtesy Daniel Laufer

Be ready for ‘exhausting’ work — and local history quizzes

How does the process work?

First you had to apply, via state party leadership, to the specific campaign you wanted to rep. If the campaign accepted you — decisions were made in late January — you were given until Feb. 18 to get 250 signatures from registered Democratic voters.

Anyone who’s canvassed before can tell you: Collecting 250 pledges may sound painless, but it’s a tall order — especially for folks who’ve never done it before.

“I’m just getting my feet wet,” said Mudry, who’s canvassing for the first time at 40 years old. “You can cover like 12 blocks in a day and only collect 20 signatures. It can definitely be exhausting.”

Individual campaigns do help out with things like petition parties to bring together potential delegates with potential voters en masse.

Laufer, the 35-year-old web developer pledging for Sanders, said he’s learned things by chatting with his neighbors during the process.

Mudry, the Warren hopeful, often works or volunteers on the weekends so said she’s missed some signature opportunities. She’s hoping to cram in the remainder today.

“I’ll do what I need to do to get it done,” Mudry insisted. “I’d be really excited to have the first female president. I want to do whatever I can to support those efforts.”

Johanna Mudry wants to be a delegate for Elizabeth Warren Credit: Courtesy Johanna Mudry

When you get your dad to swap parties

For DiPrimio, a student at Upper Darby High, canvassing fought for attention between swim practice and prep for the ACT exam. It was perhaps extra challenging, as the teen wasn’t even allowed into some of the petition parties hosted by the Warren campaign at bars — save for that time Franky Bradley’s let him through the doors.

DiPrimio still got it done. He delivered his 250+ signatures to the Harrisburg Department of State in person on Friday afternoon.

“I wanted to hand them in in person, because I’ve never been to Harrisburg before,” DiPrimio said. “It feels a little bit ceremonial.”

The signature he’s most proud of? His dad’s. DiPrimio’s father was a registered Republican — and he switched party affiliation to support his son’s political dreams on the national scale.

“It took months of persuasion,” he said. “It was the hardest signature I got.”

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...