Philadelphians at the polls this Election Day seemed keenly aware of how much their votes matter, particularly in the U.S. Senate and Pa. governor races that have captured national attention.
“We’re faced with a pretty stark choice these days between a party that believes in this process and a party that subverts it,” said Clay, a 30-year-old resident of Spruce Hill.
Early reports from poll workers in various parts of the city indicated the potential for strong turnout.
“It’s been pretty busy,” said a worker checking in voters at Ben Franklin High School on North Broad Street. “Definitely busier than last year.”
While the 2020 presidential election broke a record for number of votes cast in Philly, midterm elections are typically not as robust. Turnout trends on Tuesday looked decent compared to four years ago, according to the tracker run by the Sixty-Six Wards blog, which has a good track record of accurate predictions.
As of Monday, there were 1,072,239 registered voters in Philadelphia, per the Pa. Dept. of State.
Many who spoke with Billy Penn at the polls mentioned abortion as a major issue bringing them out.
Manayunk resident Allison Graul, 26, noted the “vast contrast in the candidates” on abortion and other basic rights. “I’m excited to have my generation out here and voting. It’s an important one.”
With the U.S. Supreme Court having overturned Roe v. Wade in June, the future of reproductive rights in Pa. lies in the hands of the state legislature and the governor. Meanwhile, federal lawmakers from each party have proposed new abortion laws, but lack the majority votes needed to do so — that could change after this election.
“There’s a lot at stake at the federal level as well, depending on what party controls it,” said Flora Cardoni, 28, who voted in West Philadelphia.
“There’s no reason anyone should have a push against what a woman should do with her body,” said Juan Freyre, 27, of Manayunk.
Other issues voters mentioned included voting rights and the survival of democracy, as well as a general concern for human rights. Several said they know their vote could make a big difference in Pennsylvania, where neither major party has a strong majority.
“There is a lot of reckless stuff going on. I want to make sure I am representing Pennsylvania because I know it is a purple state,” said Erin Anderson, 28, of Point Breeze.
Kee, a 32-year-old East Falls resident, said as a gay person she felt compelled to get out and vote for candidates who would support gay rights.
“So many important rights and liberties are on the ballot,” said Kee. “While it’s important to march and there’s a variety of ways to protest, one of the best ways to protest is to vote.”
Jacob Brandal, 27, of University City, said they came out to vote in a “fight against fascism.” They’re specifically not a fan of Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor who gained fame for questioning results of the 2020 election.
“A lot of us are tired of the Trump bullshit,” Brandal said. “I hope that we win because human rights are awesome.”
On social media, more than half of people who shared their reasons for voting with Billy Penn said they were doing so out of fundamental concern for America’s future, or as Instagram user @magnusunda put it, “To save the country!”
“Democracy is under threat,” wrote @bdhoert71.
Tara Culp-Ressler, a 33 year-old-resident of East Falls, just moved to the area less than a year ago. She used to live in Washington DC, and said this was her first time voting for representation in Congress.
“I’m thrilled to be able to vote in a state that is so significant on a national level,” she wrote in a DM. “Our state races will determine so much about the future of what it’s like to live in Pennsylvania — whether we have abortion access, whether voting becomes easier or harder, [whether] LGBTQ kids have rights in schools.”
Sylvia Hamerman-Brown, a Spruce Hill resident for over 50 years and a Democratic committee person, said this is “an incredibly important election, noting the candidates’ stances on voting rights and reproductive rights.
“I think Philadelphians are very patriotic,” Hamerman-Brown said. “They believe in doing their duty and voting, and I think they find this election to be very important on many levels.”
Richard Paul, 63, a lifetime resident of South Philly, said he votes in every election and was a poll worker for 37 years. This time it seems different, he said.
“I think people are coming out,” Paul said, “because it is one of the biggest elections we have faced in my lifetime.”