Philly students, civic leaders stress importance of voting

voting
Students from Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School spoke about the importance of voting ahead of the 2022 primary election.
Jack Tomczuk

A lot of high school seniors, busy with graduation and getting ready for college, forget to register to vote. Not Aja Moore.

Moore, a senior at Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School who lives in Logan, stood in front of a pro-voting mural Monday morning and urged residents of all ages to cast their ballot in the 2022 primary election.

“I think it’s very important that I, in particular, am here today, because I’m part of the demographic that is most unlikely to vote — young people from the inner city,” she said.

“And I feel like it’s one thing to hear from someone that doesn’t look like you, but to hear from someone that does look like you really stresses the importance,” Moore added.

Moore and other students from MCS joined District Attorney Larry Krasner and election officials for a news conference about preparations for Tuesday’s election, where Pennsylvanians will be selecting party nominees for governor, U.S. Senate and seats in Harrisburg.

Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School senior Aja Moore speaks Monday, May 16, about the importance of voting. Jack Tomczuk

“Tomorrow is a chance for you to make a change on issues that you care about,” MCS senior Zai’kia Morris, of Mount Airy, said. “Gun violence, gun reform, transportation, taxation, immigration — all things that will have an effect on our community in the coming years.”

Philadelphia is set to open about 1,700 voting divisions for the primary, and more than 100,000 mail-ballots have been sent to city residents.

City Commissioners, who oversee Philadelphia’s elections process, encouraged registered voters to take advantage of the chance to cast their ballot.

“Octavius Catto was assassinated on Election Day so that we can have this opportunity to vote,” said Commissioner Omar Sabir, referring to the Black civil rights leader who was fatally shot in 1871 while on his way to vote.

“My parents came from a violent, poor country in Central America, where if you organized, if you advocated, if you spoke truth to power, especially on behalf of the powerless, you would disappear,” said the Rev. Adan Mairena, senior pastor at West Kensington Ministry.

“So for that reason, I consider it not only a civic duty to vote,” he added. “I consider it a sacred duty to vote.”

Krasner said he is activating the DA Office’s Election Task Force, made up of more than 30 attorneys and detectives, to handle any voting-related issues, such as intimidation or improper campaigning.

Anyone who spots a problem outside their polling place can call the task force at 215-686-9641; concerns inside a voting location can be reported to the City Commissioners at 215-686-1590. Voters can also call 866-OUR-VOTE, a national, nonpartisan hotline.

For those voting by mail, ballots must be received no later than 8 p.m. Tuesday, when dropboxes will be locked.

Dropboxes are located at City Hall (south side), Riverview Place (540 N. Columbus Boulevard), Eastern State Penitentiary, Markward Playground, Pelbano Recreation Center, Ford PAL Recreation Center, Smith Playground, Vogt Recreation Center, Independence Branch Library, Dorothy Emanuel Recreation Center, Pleasant Playground, Shissler, Chalfont Playground, Stenton Playground, Shepard Recreation Center, Kendrick Recreation Center and the election warehouse at 11311 Roosevelt Boulevard.

Voters can only drop off their own ballot unless someone else who is physically unable to submit their ballot fills out a form designating them as a delivery agent.

City Commissioner Omar Sabir demonstrates how to complete a mail-in ballot. Jack Tomczuk

Sabir reminded mail-in voters to make sure they place their ballot inside the smaller, blue “secrecy” envelope before placing it inside the larger envelope, which should be signed and dated.

Votes submitted without the secrecy envelope — known as “naked ballots” — cannot be counted under state rules, he explained.

In-person polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To find your voting location, go to www.pavoterservices.pa.gov and click on “Find Your Polling Place.”

Since Pennsylvania has a closed primary system, only party members can weigh in on nominees, although everyone can vote on ballot questions (Philadelphia has four on Tuesday) and in special elections (two are being held in the Northeast).

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