Election 2022

On a sunny Election Day in Philly, worker shortage causes some stumbles as issues drive voters to the polls

“I’m here getting my money’s worth,” said a registered independent who showed up to vote on the ballot questions.

Poll workers at North Light Community Center in Manayunk

Poll workers at North Light Community Center in Manayunk

Lizzy McLellan Ravitch / Billy penn

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Primary voters are heading to the polls all over Philadelphia today to weigh in on their parties’ nominees for political office, and a few ballot questions.

Overall report: The weather is gorgeous, lines are short, and dogs are out.

This is the also first election where the city is providing all materials in Chinese, including “I voted” stickers.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. Some voting locations dealt with staffing confusion amid a citywide poll worker shortage. One leading statewide candidate had to vote via emergency ballot because of COVID, and another had a pacemaker installed. Elsewhere, signs urging people to vote against an incumbent Philly state rep were deemed illegal.

We won’t know how turnout compares to past years until after the polls close, but in general, Philadelphians are showing up to express their support for issues that matter to them. Here’s how primary Election Day 2022 in Philly went down.

What’s bringing folks to the polls

Abortion rights, climate justice, political division, and LGBTQ+ rights are among the issues Philadelphians told Billy Penn are on their minds as they head to the polls.

One voter in Washington Square West told Billy Penn they wanted to vote in the primary because “our country is so divided and full of hate … In all my years I’ve never seen our country like this.”

In Queen Village, voter Vicky Borgia said she always votes, but this time she particularly wants to prevent Mehmet Oz from representing her in the U.S. Senate — because the Republican front-runner “doesn’t live here.”

Colleen McFadden of East Falls said she was initially motivated to vote in the primary because of the U.S. Senate seat left open by Pat Toomey’s retirement, because it presents an opportunity for Democrats to flip. But the recent Supreme Court leak gave her another reason to come out.

“More recently I’m really, really worried about abortion rights, so now governor is maybe at the forefront of my mind,” McFadden said.

Another East Falls voter who said they aren’t registered Democrat or Republican came out just to vote on the four ballot questions, and expressed frustration they couldn’t weigh in on any of the political races.

“When you’re declared independent you don’t get to vote in these elections which is kind of messed up because we pay for them anyway,” they told Billy Penn. “I’m here getting my money’s worth.”

Pennsylvania is one of nine U.S. states with totally closed primaries, though there’s a Committee of 70 initiative right now that hopes to see that change.

Poll worker shortage impacts several locations

The day started off somewhat hectic at Thomas Mifflin School in East Falls, as some voters waited while poll workers searched for and set up their ballots. A few workers canceled at the last minute, one committee person explained. But by 7:10 a.m., the first few voters were able to get to their machines and the line quickly dissipated.

The Hancock Recreation Center in South Kensington also had to scramble early in the morning due to staffing issues. The location didn’t have someone set to serve as the judge of elections, some materials were missing, said Kristin Harkins, who’s been a poll worker since 2020 and stepped up to take the lead.

Around 22 people had shown up in what was supposed to be the first hour of voting, Democratic committeepeople told Billy Penn, and had to wait. The proper materials arrived just after 7:20 a.m., according to committeeperson Janay Green, and things were ready to go by 8 a.m. Some folks stayed in line — around “10 or so” people were in line once voting started, poll worker Harkins said — but others left.

Similar troubles — also related to staffing — happened at two polling places in Harrowgate, the Inquirer reported.

Finding poll workers can be challenging. As of 6:44 p.m. on Monday, the City Commissioners were still looking for more people to work at the polls.

One poll worker in Kensington encouraged others to sign up for future elections. And it’s not even a volunteer opportunity, she said — it’s a paid gig. And you might be surprised about who’s eligible, too: in South Philly, one 17 year-old is reportedly serving as a judge of elections.

First year with Chinese language translation

This year’s primary election marks the first time Chinese language translations for voting materials have been required. Some polling places even had their “I voted” stickers printed in Chinese, too.

A voter told Billy Penn his voting machine didn’t display the translations for the ballot questions, and a poll worker said it did not translate the questions very well. If Philadelphia wants to be a multi-language city, one voter in Pennsport said, “it better be prepared to have all different languages showing up.”

Pandemic-era sticker alternatives?

Many voting locations had stickers available in different languages — Philly’s design got an honorable mention from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission — but at least one had a bit of a different voting souvenir: at-home COVID tests.

Don’t despair if your polling place wasn’t handing these out — the federal government just made another round of free COVID tests yesterday. You can get eight mailed to your household through USPS at covidtests.gov.

In a city with a 7-1 Dem registration advantage, GOP voters have differing views

Timothy Leicher wears many hats on Election Day: poll watcher, chairman of the 46th Ward Republican Party in deep blue West Philly, and disillusioned voter.

So disillusioned that he wrote in his own name as the Republican Senate and gubernatorial nominee.

“All anyone of them had to do was come out and say, ‘I can’t stand Donald Trump and want nothing to do with his brand of being a Republican,’ and I’d vote for them,” he told Billy Penn outside of West Philly’s Cedar Works Community Center. “That’s all I needed from someone.”

Leicher said he fears this slate of insurrection-adjacent, election-denying candidates will “push people away from the concept of there being moderate Republicans.”

In North Philadelphia, David Briggman viewed things from a different angle.

“I miss Trump,” he said outside the polling location at Duckrey Tanner School, adding that that he’s ready to see a Republican in the governor’s seat

Briggman was there handing out campaign literature for U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, a Democrat — but he clarified that he voted Republican this year, and the Evans gig was just a good chance to make some money.

Illegal posters get confiscated

Philly’s election court confiscated signs printed and posted by an unknown person or group expressing opposition to Pa. Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, the Inquirer reported.

The signs went up near at least four polling places in Fiedler’s district. They depict Fiedler along with District Attorney Larry Krasner, saying the South Philly representative “and her performative ‘activists'” are ‘ALL TALK AND NO ACTION’ when it comes to gun violence in Philadelphia.

The posters say they’re “printed in house by Democrats Against Egotists.” But the group reportedly isn’t a registered PAC with the Pa. Department of State, which means the posters aren’t allowed.

The progressive incumbent Fiedler (a former WHYY reporter) is running against Michael Giangiordano II, a realtor who said he was inspired to run against Fiedler because he thinks she cares too much about “Twitter issues” and “performative criminal justice activism matters.”

Spreading the word about the role of the committeeperson

Outside of Cedar Park’s Gold Standard Cafe, Jordan Teicher and Patrick Wargo — two candidates for Democratic Committeeperson in the 46th Ward’s 17th District — had two goals: canvassing for Rick Krajewski and Paul Prescod, and explaining the importance of the least-discussed position on the ballot.

For both major parties, committeepeople are responsible for getting out the vote, registering voters, and helping spread the word about election deadlines in communities. Teicher and Wargos’ division is three square blocks, but they view their jobs as vital.

“It’s really important to have strong, connected communities. We think electing committee people is one way to build community power,” said Wargo, a field organizer with progressive organization For Our Future.

In their division, a gentrifying enclave within West Philly and one of the most democratic districts nationwide, a mix of public safety concerns and community investment were top of mind for voters.

“Figuring out how to protect our communities without increasing mass incarceration is important,” said Teicher. “People want to see investment, not necessarily more money going to police because healthy, well-funded communities become safe communities.”

In other candidate news

Two Democratic candidates didn’t make appearances at any campaign events today, for health-related reasons.

Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who’s running uncontested for the Democratic nomination for governor, tested positive for COVID. He’ll isolate at home through next week, according to his campaign, which said Shapiro used an emergency absentee ballot to cast his vote.

Pa. Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman also won’t be spotted at any campaign events today — he’s still recovering from a stroke he experienced over the weekend. Tuesday afternoon, his campaign announced he was about to get a pacemaker installed to “address the underlying cause of his stroke.”

Some other statewide candidates have been out and about Philly today.

Malcolm Kenyatta, a current member of the Pa. House from Philadelphia who’s running for U.S. Senate, cast his vote at his polling place at the Berean Institute in North Philadelphia.

Lieutenant governor candidate and current Pa. House member Austin Davis made an appearance at a polling place in Brewerytown, where he high-fived a young child he dubbed “Philadelphia’s chief sticker officer.”

 

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