Early voting sites open in Philly

Priscilla Bennett, of North Philadelphia, drops off her mail-in ballot Tuesday, Sept.29, becoming the first city resident to vote in the 2020 election. PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

And so it began.

Priscilla Bennett filled out her ballot Tuesday morning in the spacious lobby of Temple University’s Liacouras Center, becoming the first person in Philadelphia to vote in the 2020 election.

Bennett, a teacher who lives in North Philadelphia, was swarmed by reporters as she made her selections and dropped her ballot in a box near the arena’s doors.

“It felt good to be engaged in the process, and I’m glad that these centers have opened because it will give people the opportunity to be part of the process,” she said.

It was clear she didn’t cast her ballot for President Donald Trump.

“We can’t have four more years of this foolishness that he continues to amplify,” Bennett said.

Bennett voted at one of seven satellite election offices that opened Tuesday. They effectively act as early voting sites, where residents can request, complete and submit their mail-in ballot at the same time without leaving the premises.

Election workers print the ballots and direct voters to shielded kiosks, where they can make their selections in private.

In addition, people can register to vote or drop off their sealed mail-in ballots at the offices, which will operate seven days a week through Election Day.

“These offices will be crucial to providing alternative voting options for the voters of Philadelphia,” City Commissioner Lisa Deeley said. “We anticipate that each of our satellite offices will be very popular.”

Deeley said her office is in the process of setting up an additional 10 locations which will open on a rolling basis in the coming weeks.

“We are working hard to recruit and train additional staff in order to open the remaining satellite locations as quickly as possible,” she said.

City Commissioner Lisa Deeley holds up a mail-in ballot Tuesday, Sept. 29, at the Liacouras Center. PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

City Council President Darrell Clarke spoke at the opening of the Liacouras Center site and called this year’s election “probably the most important vote of your lifetime.” He recruited Bennett to be the first voter, then decided to submit his ballot, too.

Clarke, who was wearing a “Biden Harris” campaign sticker, said the process was “seamless.”

“You have no reason not to do this,” he said. “It’s literally four or five minutes.”

As elected officials began leaving, people lined up outside the arena, waiting for the location to open up to the public.

The first mail-in ballots started going out to voters in Philadelphia on Monday. Deeley again reminded residents to put their ballot in the smaller “secrecy envelope,” then put that envelope into the larger “declaration envelope” and sign the outside of the declaration envelope.

People who have already applied for a mail-in ballot will not be able to vote on-demand at the satellite election offices until Oct. 10, at which point they can put in for a replacement ballot, officials said.

City Council President Darrell Clarke fills out his ballot Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Liacouras Center. PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

The voting sites are open from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The locations that opened Tuesday are George Washington High School, Roxborough High School, Tilden Middle School, Julia De Burgos Elementary School, Overbrook High School and Room 140 at City Hall, in addition to the Liacouras Center.

Funding for the sites comes from a $10 million grant to the City Commissioners Office from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life.