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Hundreds of thousands more Philadelphians voted in the May 2022 election than in the midterm primary four years ago, according to official returns, but turnout varied greatly in different parts of the city
Overall, just under 24% of Philly’s registered voters (247,411 of 1,048,790 people) went to the polls, according to data from the Office of City Commissioners, vs 17% in 2018.
Turnout is always lower in non-presidential years, and four years ago there were no contested races for Pa. governor or U.S. Senate seats, unlike this year’s drawn-out contests for both parties’ nominations.
Those close races helped drive record turnout across the commonwealth. Around 30% — over 2.6 million of 8.7 million — of registered Pennsylvania voters cast ballots in the May 17 primary, setting a statewide record for both Democrats and Republicans, according to an Inquirer analysis.
In Philadelphia, some of the city’s 66 wards topped the city and statewide averages, and some fell seriously below. In one ward, fewer than 1 in 13 registered voters showed up at the polls. In another, nearly half decided to cast a vote.
Primary voters came out in strong numbers in much of Northwest Philly, long considered a political stronghold. Ward 9, which includes Chestnut Hill, had the highest percent turnout of any in the city: 5,961 of 12,595 registered voters, or 47%. Turnout was also high in areas of South Philly like Queen Village and Bella Vista.
Fairmount’s Ward 15, which notched 38% overall turnout, included the precinct with the strongest showing in the city this election. Its 6th division — which starts along Pennsylvania Avenue across from the Philadelphia Museum of Art — saw 588 of 822 registered voters head to the polls. That’s 72%.
As has been common in the past, turnout lagged in North Philly and the lower part of the Northeast, areas with some of the lowest median incomes in the city.
North Philly’s Ward 7 notched just 820 primary votes from 13,057 registered voters, which amounts to 6.3%. Several of its neighbors — Ward 19 to its south (West Kensington, 9%); Ward 33 to its east (Juniata, 8%); Ward 42 to its north (Feltonville, 11%); and Ward 43 to its west (Hunting Park, 12%) — also saw some of the city’s lowest numbers by percentage.
University City was home to the precinct with the lowest turnout by percentage. In the 22nd division of Ward 27, a little under 2% of registered voters — 33 of 1,680 people — cast a ballot. The precinct mainly includes student housing for Penn, where final exams ended the week before the election. Overall, the 27th ward saw 12% turnout.
And of course, there were some areas in the middle. But even in wards where turnout was average, you could see block-by-block disparities.
For example: Ward 65, located along the Delaware River in Northeast Philadelphia. Its turnout was 26%, a little above the city’s overall percentage. In its 20th division, 560 of 1,146 eligible people (49%) voted in the primary. But in its 14th division, just 48 of 495 registered voters (10%) cast their ballots.