Philly goes to the polls

People wait in line to vote Tuesday, Nov. 3, at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement in Fishtown.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Anne Green waited about an hour before casting her ballot Tuesday in Fishtown.

Nearly all of her friends voted by mail, but she decided to do it in-person because she lives practically next-door to her polling place and she voted in the June primary without issue.

One of the church’s four voting machines was down in the morning, causing a line to cascade down Montgomery Avenue.

“I’m fine,” Green said while standing outside the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement. “It’s the only thing on my agenda for the day.”

Thousands of other Philadelphians showed up to the polls Tuesday, and many waited in line, especially those who arrived early.

People began queuing at the Fishtown church as early as 5:45 a.m., more than an hour before the site opened, and there were similar reports at other polling stations.

Many said they decided to vote on Election Day because they wanted to make sure their vote was counted, while others said it was just easier for them to cast their ballots in-person.

“I always come in person,” said Theresa Brown, who said she voted for Biden at Mary McLeod Bethune School in North Philadelphia. “I’m right around the corner, I don’t have an excuse.”

“I wanted to make sure my vote was counted,” said Rashine Brown, who also voted at Bethune.

Fishtown voter John McCool, who lives near his polling site, Adaire Elementary School, just said it’s “convenient.”

High above the city, small planes carried banners urging people to vote, as the deadline drew near on a presidential race that has been all-consuming.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who, like President Donald Trump, has made Pennsylvania an integral part of his campaign, was spotted Tuesday making stops in Old City and West Oak Lane.

Signs for Democratic nominee Joe Biden lines a fence near Adaire Elementary School, a polling place in Fishtown.PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Patricia Austin, a Biden supporter, bundled up to make her selections at Bethune, which is in the shadow of Temple University Hospital.

“I came out in the cold,” she said. “He better win.”

Sarah Cannedy, a Democratic committee person, was handing out pamphlets outside the school to inform voters of the party’s ticket.

“I want something better than what I got now,” she said, referring to the presidential race.

Ambrose Rogers wore a Trump 2020 mask as he accompanied his wife to the polls in Fishtown. He said he doesn’t support efforts to take down Civil War-era monuments, and he also appreciates what Trump has done for the economy.

“I like that the president has helped more people get jobs,” Rogers said. “I just believe that all American history should be protected.”

As to whether the president was going to pull off another upset, he said: “It’s 50-50.”

Trump won Pennsylvania by about 44,000 votes in 2016, a margin of less than 1%.

Polls have shown Biden with a steady lead in the state; however, an national average published by Real Clear Politics had the former vice president with an advantage of only 1.2% on Tuesday.

Data from surveys released Monday by Monmouth University and Marist College showed Biden up by 4-7% in Pennsylvania.

At Palmer Recreation Center in the Far Northeast, one of the few sections of the city where Trump did well in 2016, more than 300 people had voted in-person by 12:30 p.m. in a division with about 1,200 registered voters.

Campaign signs for President Donald Trump greet people arriving to vote at Palmer Recreation Center in the Far Northeast.PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

This year, it’s also one of a handful of areas with a contested state representative election. Democrat Mike Doyle is challenging Rep. Martina White, who leads the Philadelphia GOP.

Not far away, Trump signs competed with Biden placards for space on Roosevelt Boulevard medians.

“I’m voting for someone who’s going to support our police,” said Bruce Kensil, who voted at Palmer. “I’m voting for someone who’s going to support my finances.”

It seemed most voters in the city made up their minds a while ago, but not Aaron Knellinger. The 21-year-old said he decided a few days ago.

“I went back and forth,” said Kellinger, a first-time voter who filled out his ballot at Palmer.

The District Attorney’s Office said its Election Task Force had fielded calls about 52 incidents as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, and 47 had been resolved.  Most were about alleged interference or partisan electioneering.

A handful, including allegations that voters were harassed or filmed without permission, are being investigated, DA spokesperson Jane Roh said.

“Misinformation being spread online has driven more calls to the ETF hotline than actual incidents at polling sites,” Roh said in an email.

While the focus was on in-person voting Tuesday, election workers began counting thousands of mail-in ballots using high-tech equipment at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City.

More than 350,000 people have voted by mail in Philadelphia, and over 2 million have returned mail-in ballots across the state.

The process of counting those votes is expected to take some time. City officials have said they plan to release some results after polls close Tuesday, with more to come in batches Wednesday and in the following days.

In addition, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that mail-in votes should be counted as long as they arrive by Friday and there’s not clear evidence they were mailed after Election Day.

That decision has been lambasted by Trump, and Republicans are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the ruling.

State leaders have advised counties to segregate ballots that arrive after 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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