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Be prepared to vote!

The General Election is Tuesday, November 5. Here is everything you need to know about how to vote in PA:


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of true believers in — and leaders of — democracy

Ali Velshi, Jennifer Rubin, Andrew Yang and Michael Steele discuss how Americans can safeguard democracy. Included: Innovations to our voting system. Prescriptions for staying abreast of the facts. All from our December 2022 Ideas We Should Steal Festival.

Get Involved

Engaged citizens strengthen democracy

One of the founding tenets of The Philadelphia Citizen is to get people the resources they need to become better, more engaged citizens of their city.

We hope to do that in our Good Citizenship Toolkit, which includes a host of ways to get involved in Philadelphia — whether you want to contact your City Councilmember about the challenges facing your community, get those experiencing homelessness the goods they need, or simply go out to dinner somewhere where you know your money is going toward a greater good.

Find an issue that’s important to you in the list below, and get started on your journey of A-plus citizenship.

Vote and strengthen democracy

Stand up for marginalized communities

Create a cleaner, greener Philadelphia

Help our local youth and schools succeed

Support local businesses

Choose Democracy

The assault on the U.S. Capitol was a low point of our 248-year history. It’s time to pick a side: Are you for or against democracy?

Choose Democracy

The assault on the U.S. Capitol was a low point of our 248-year history. It’s time to pick a side: Are you for or against democracy?

Post January 6, 2021 Joe Biden (then the president-elect) said of the insurgents who attempted a coup in Washington, D.C., “The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are.”

But watching those scenes of violent chaos, it was clear that Biden was at least partly wrong: That’s also who we are.

We may spend the rest of our lives reflecting on that moment in American history, and much of the finger-pointing will be justified: the lying, violence-inciting president; the members of Congress attempting to lead a coup even before the invasion; the enablers too gutless and unprincipled to take a stand throughout Donald Trump’s presidency.

With the 2024 election in our sights, our heads are constantly spinning. From Trump’s 34 felony convictions to the Supreme Court granting presidents immunity from prosecution for criminal activity (so long as those crimes were committed in their official capacity as president), we are reeling. Just this week, SCOTUS discarded the Chevron deference, stripping federal agencies’ power and empowering private businesses. Just last week, Biden supporters were calling for him to step down from his candidacy.

Most of these developments have been years in the making. Too many Americans were not engaged enough in the process, too complacent to believe we needed to strengthen democracy. We didn’t hold our elected leaders to account. We didn’t vote. But let’s not harp on the past. The truth is:

You’re either for democracy. Or you’re against it. There is no middle ground.

If you choose democracy, as I really hope you do, then know that it requires vigilance, and hard work; that it is agonizing and sometimes offends; that it can break your heart; that it is, as Biden also said in his afternoon speech, “fragile and to preserve it requires people of good will.”

Are you on board? Then, here are a few ways to strengthen democracy, especially today when it feels weaker than ever:

Vote. Of course, vote. In 2020, we had the biggest turnout ever, for what even former President Trump’s top elections official said was the most secure election ever, something confirmed by about 60 judges and elections officials in every single state. All of that was democracy at its best.

Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s turnout in the 2022 midterms and the 2023 mayoral election was dismal. Philadelphia’s next opportunity to show up is the general election on November 5. In addition to attorney general, state reps, state treasurer, and a U.S. Senate seat, we seem to have a rematch between Trump and Biden.

While you’re making sure you cast your ballot, make sure your friends, family, and neighbors are taking part, too. Strengthening democracy requires “We the People” to actually be the people.

Fact-check your facts. See above: The 2020 election was fair and it was decisive. But years of sharing lies and half-truths have made it easy to convince millions of Americans that it wasn’t. Bookmark the non-partisan at Penn’s Annenberg School of Communications — and check in every day.

Their biggest “whoppers” of 2023 included Trump’s continuing assertion that other countries are emptying their prisons and sending their “most heinous” to the United States and Biden’s repeated attempts to claim he’s cut the federal deficit.

Consciously avoid spreading untruths. Be the type of person Soviet dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn extolled in his 1970 Nobel lecture: “The simple act of an ordinary brave man is not to participate in lies, not to support false actions.”

Pay attention to Pennsylvania. The U.S. Capitol isn’t the only place where democracy is threatened. Peel your eyes away from D.C. and demand the Pennsylvania state legislature actually look after the interests of the state’s citizens. Tell them to keep their hands off new laws that make voting as easy as possible; demand redistricting is fair and not gerrymandered; elect representatives who support the rule of law.

Make state elections fairer. Join the efforts to create a nonpartisan redistricting committee to reshape electoral districts so the process is not controlled by either Democrats or Republicans in the state legislature. Sign on to the movement with Fair Districts PA.

Demand a social media reckoning. Steve Brill’s NewsGuard issued a scathing report before the November election on the proliferation of misinformation on Facebook, and social media companies have been called to account for their danger to our society several times this past year.

This is not about limiting constitutionally protected speech; it’s about limiting what is not protected: inciting violence. As Jonathan Greenblatt, director of the Anti-Defamation League, said to the New York Times: “Freedom of expression is not the freedom to incite violence. That is not protected speech.”

You’re either for democracy. Or you’re against it. There is no middle ground.

Better yet, stop using social media to get and share information — or, at least fact-check it first. See above. (Cat pics still okay.)

Teach, or advocate for more, civics in schools. Remember laughing at the idiocy of Alabama Senator (former Auburn football coach) Tommy Tuberville who didn’t seem to know the three branches of government? That’s not funny. We need Americans who know how America works — from how a law is made, to who makes them, who is supposed to defend them (including the president!), to why civic engagement matters.

Support independent local media. One other horrible facet of the pandemic has been the decimation of local newspapers all over the country. That leaves citizens with fewer reliable sources of information, and with little or no knowledge of what their local government is doing. That makes for a less engaged local citizenry and gives politicians the go-ahead to run amok. Support The Citizen, subscribe to The Inquirer, support WHYY — or pick your own.

Support Philadelphia Republicans who will actually compete in the marketplace of ideas. There needs to be a place at the table for constructive, opposing views to stimulate new ways of thinking and doing, and to increase accountability for our elected officials. It is shameful that, until the recent rise of Philly’s Working Families Party — who anyway run as Democrats — we’ve been a one-party town for decades.

Be a better citizen of your city in whatever ways you can, toward whatever goal you’re most passionate about or your community needs the most. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Have zero tolerance for corruption and unethical behavior. A few years ago, we had two indicted sitting City Councilmembers in the city of Philadelphia — one of whom, Bobby Henon, ran unopposed for reelection in 2019, then stayed in office. Worse, almost no elected officials in Philadelphia called on Henon to resign or spoke out against his co-defendant, union boss John Dougherty.

In fall of 2022, current City Council President Kenyatta Johnson and his wife went on trial for public corruption, and the night before, a number of local pols and powerbrokers attended the couple’s “Pre Trial Victory Prayer Service.” They were acquitted.

Celebrate those who are doing the right thing, whether Republican or Democrat, especially when it’s brave. See, for example, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney. Or, closer to home, Republican City Commissioner-turned-PA Secretary of State Al Schmidt.

Push our elected leaders to listen to real people. Like, not just members of the media, pundits, lobbyists or each other. Chances are they’ll be surprised about what people actually care about. Hear what local philanthropist/businessman Richard Vague learned after 2016, when he took a cross-country tour to talk with middle-class voters all over America.

Read something about our American democracy. Start way back with Alexis de Tocqueville whose Democracy in America celebrated our greatness, but acknowledged too, our weaknesses as a community and as individuals in the midst of a grand human experiment. Turn to Democratic Vistas, Walt Whitman’s seminal work about America, which also recognizes America’s contradictions, and celebrates its hope.

Talk to each other. Take a step outside your bubble, have a conversation with someone you think might disagree with you on something. The American tent is truly big enough for all of us. Read Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, University of California-Berkeley Professor Arlie Hochschild’s moving account of the time she spend talking to Tea Party members in the years before Trump.

Try these tips from Megan Phelps-Roper, who grew up and was social media coordinator for the hate-mongering Westboro Baptist Church until she started talking to her critics on Twitter. Meaningful conversation can make a difference. Yelling at each other gets us where we were on January 6, 2020 — and never want to be again.


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