Philly voters go to polls to decide on DA, judges, ballot questions

Signs for judicial candidates jockey for position outside Tarken Recreation Center, a polling place in Oxford Circle.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Plenty of kids were on the playground Tuesday afternoon outside Ferko Recreation Center in Juniata, but hardly anyone was inside voting.

By 1 p.m., only 25 people had shown up to cast their municipal primary ballot, according to Dottie Reed, the division’s judge of elections.

“This is the slowest I’ve ever seen,” said Reed, who has worked the polls there for 13 years.

At Andrew J. Morrison School in Olney, which houses four precincts, party workers hustled to hand sample ballots to a slow trickle of voters making their way towards the entrance.

City Commissioner Lisa Deeley said it might take until Friday or Saturday to tally all the votes.PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

It didn’t really feel like an Election Day, said state Rep. Jason Dawkins, who showed up at Morrison.

That’s partially expected, with few high-interest races on the ballot and following November’s frenzied presidential election. People may have been politically exhausted, Dawkins said.

“The last one was rough, rough for a lot of communities,” he told Metro.

Diminished interest also contributed to a poll worker shortage, particularly in precincts in Northeast Philadelphia.

Deputy City Commissioner Nick Custodio said some divisions in that section of the city had delayed openings, as election officials had to scramble to send staff and emergency poll workers. He said all 707 precincts eventually opened.

In-person turnout may also have been depressed by higher numbers of mail-in ballots. No-excuse voting by mail was only approved in Pennsylvania two years ago, and it became popular during the coronavirus pandemic.

About 87,000 Philadelphia voters requested mail-in ballots during this election cycle, officials said. City Commissioner Lisa Deeley, who chairs the three-member board overseeing elections, said it might take until Friday or Saturday to tally all those votes.

No results were released at the time Metro went to print.

District Attorney Larry Krasner has said he will continue reforming the criminal justice system is re-elected.PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Tuesday’s most-watched contest was the Democratic primary for district attorney, where long-time prosecutor Carlos Vega was attempting to unseat incumbent Larry Krasner.

“I need you to get up, brush your teeth, have your coffee and come out and vote,” Vega said in a video posted on social media by his campaign early Tuesday. “I need you to bring in your mother, your cousin, your aunt, the local grocer.”

Krasner, meanwhile, received celebrity backing from John Legend and Philadelphia-based rapper Meek Mill, who expressed his support on Twitter.

“I believe he’s for the people,” Dietha Brown said of Krasner. She voted at Tarken Recreation Center in Oxford Circle.

When asked why she voted for Vega, Carol, who declined to give her last name, had a simple answer — she would vote for anybody running against Krasner.

“Since my son is law enforcement, I will not vote for Krasner,” she said after casting her ballot in Olney. “He is against the police.”

Philadelphia’s Democratic party did not officially endorse either candidate, and ward leaders were split on who to support.

Pamphlets distributed in the 42nd Ward, which covers parts of Olney and Feltonville, urged voters to select Krasner, while 33rd Ward Leader Donna Augment told people in Juniata, Kensington and Harrowgate to go for Vega.

Dawkins predicted a 20 percentage point victory for Krasner.

Other voters were motivated to go to the polls by the ballot questions, especially the first two, which, if approved, would transfer emergency powers from Gov. Tom Wolf to Republican legislative leaders. The measures were a clear reaction to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I think a number of the governors have totally blown it,” Jeffrey Kall, an Oxford Circle voter, said. “They’ve used (the virus) as a good excuse to hurt an awful lot of people.”

Some were driven to the polls by civic obligation and a sense of duty.

“You can’t just wait until the general election to actually vote,” said Paulette Abdul, who voted at Tarken. “You’ve got to vote for all these judges, superior court, supreme court, because it actually makes a difference for young people.”