Philly goes to polls for primary day

With presidential candidates on the ballot and multiple closely watched local races up for grabs, voters in Philadelphia hit the polls hard and early.

“It’s still early in the day, but it certainly seems brisk at this point,” said city commissioner Al Schmidt, one of the officials in charge of elections in Philly, just before noon Tuesday.

“What’s driving turn-out? We have a contested Democratic primary, a contested Republican primary for president, and down-ticket races, like state senate and state representatives – as well as some state-wide offices like attorney general – are driving interest,” Schmidt said.

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Primary day is being run at 1,686 voting divisions by more than 7500 volunteers for more than a million registered voters, Schmidt said – but there had been few complaints or issues as of Tuesday morning.

“I was just at one polling place – the host building had locked voting machines in a closet,” Schmidt said. “We had to break in. We drilled out the lock and hauled out the voting machines so voters could vote on the machines. Until then they had distributed provisional paper ballots, so no votes will be lost.”

Voters around the city were passionate about different races each for their own reasons.

Tiara Johnson, 32, of North Philly, was fired up about voting for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

“I have a lot of respect for Bernie Sanders. He was part of the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King,” she said. “Hillary has been with Republicans, and voted for the white elites. … She was talking about making black predators, and now you want black votes? … Once she gets into office, Bill Clinton will be running everything.”

Paul Hill, 58, said he voted for Hillary Clinton because he believed she was the best candidate to build on Barack Obama’s presidency.

“There’s a lot of talk in Congress about stuff Obama has done … All I see is postive aspects. … Why not build on what’s been established for us?” Hill asked. “If it was up to me, Hillary would be in there.

“I’m a Bernie supporter, I think he speaks for himself,” said Abigail Dernoga, 25.

Dernoga said she felt there wasn’t enough information available about down-ticket races to the public.

“There has definitely not been enough info being put out there. If you want to find out, you really have to dig,” she said.

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Ann Sitarz, 31, said she had voted for former state environmental protection director Kate McGinty for U.S. senator. She voted for Northwest Philly activist Dan Murrow for Congress over indicted Rep. Chaka Fattah and his opponent, state rep. Dwight Evans.

“When you’re a politician accused of corruption, it rings true,” she said.

She also voted for Hillary Clinton for president, in part to fight cultural sexism.

“I deal with sexism and sexual harassment every day … A female leader would make a world of difference to me,” Sitarz said. “I know Bernie Sanders has some good ideas, I’m just not sure they can happen. … I know a lot of women who support Hillary who are quiet about it because they don’t want to be harassed.”

Meanwhile, candidate Bernie Sanders stunned voters in Center City around 11 a.m. Tuesday as he shook hands and posed for pictures with voters at 15th and Market streets and in Dilworth Park.

That included Jasmine Crawford, 19, and her 4-month-old daughter, Ryley, who said she will vote for Sanders.

“The things he is saying that he wants to do, I support,” Crawford said, citing his proposed tax hike for wealthy Americans and proposed increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour.