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Vote in the general election, November 5, 2024

The general election is on Tuesday, November 5. Make sure you are registered to vote and cast your ballot!  Here is everything you need to know about how to vote.

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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 making voting easier for all citizens, 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.

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Mystery Shopper: Registering to Vote for the First Time

Our city-dwelling, non-driving Mystery Shopper turned 18 a few months before the election. Why was it so hard to register to vote?

Mystery Shopper: Registering to Vote for the First Time

Our city-dwelling, non-driving Mystery Shopper turned 18 a few months before the election. Why was it so hard to register to vote?

Registering to vote is (or should be, anyway) a milestone in every new 18-year-old’s life. And this year, new 18-year-olds have the chance to weigh in on what may very well be the most important presidential election in our lives.

Given how small turnout has been, and how so many eyes are on Philadelphia, you’d think registering would be a breeze for an eager young voter like myself. You’d be … wrong. That’s because, like many of my fellow urban dwellers, I do not have a driver’s license, or even a state ID. I do have a U.S. passport, a job that pays taxes to the City and state, and mail with my address on it. I knew I couldn’t legally operate a vehicle — but I didn’t know it also meant I couldn’t easily register to vote.

Here’s what happened:

    1. I turned 18 in December and started my registration process in mid-January. I had heard it was as simple as filling out a few questions at votepa.gov. I found the website on my phone, and filled out what I could, leaving blank the space for my PennDot license number.
    2. I was unable to submit the form without a driver’s license number, so instead I clicked on something that said I would fill out a physical form and what my mailing address is. The form came in the mail within about a week. On it was all the information that I’d already filled out, with the exception of my Social Security number. The instruction that came with it reminded me that the registration deadline for the 2024 primary was on April 7. It did not specify any other deadline for turning in the form, and as it was still early February, I didn’t feel a particular sense of urgency.
    3. However, about two weeks later, I received an email telling me that my application had been declined because of “no response.” It also informed me that I could file an appeal petition to the Philadelphia Voter Registration office.
    4. That’s exactly what I did, in the form of an email back to the registration office explaining what happened and asking to appeal the decision.
    5. I waited for a response to my appeal. And I waited some more. (In fact, I’m still waiting.)
    6. Meanwhile, I knew I needed a backup plan, so I headed to my local library to pick up a paper registration form. Amongst a dozen other various papers, a registration form sat on a table. The form came with another piece of pre-addressed paper that I was meant to fold and tape into an envelope and put a stamp on it. Instead, I used a normal envelope. That involved writing the address myself for the voter office in City Hall. Here, I should acknowledge: I’m a 21st-century teenager; we don’t “mail things.” So I may (or may not) have screwed up the address on the envelope (though, to be clear, the words “Voter Registration Office,” “City Hall” and “Room 142” were all there, in some sort of order). And this may (or may not have) further pushed back my registration.
    7. Regardless, a few days later, the letter came back “address unknown.”
    8. By now, the deadline was just a few days away. So, enduring what I truly believe was a borderline hurricane, I made the trek to City Hall. Soaking wet and having been turned around several times, I finally found a woman who seemed to be there to help people just like me sitting at the entrance. She handed me a form.
    9. I filled it out on the spot, turned it into the registration office and waited while they looked it over.
    10. Finally — finally — I was registered!

Result: I voted for the first election of my life in the 2024 primary.

Time spent: In total about four hours trying to register over the span of about three months.

Takeaways: Having online voter registration tied to driving is a disservice to city residents, especially young people who — like me — are less likely to drive because of cost, safety and the environment. But also: Why did the City decline my application before I had a chance to mail it in? Why didn’t they answer my appeal? (Also: Why is addressing an envelope so damn hard?)

Is there an easy solution to this? In fact, yes: Almost half the states in the U.S. allow for same-day voter registration, which means I could have shown up at my polling place on April 23, signed up to become a voter on the spot, and then cast a ballot immediately. Please, Pennsylvania legislators, let’s do this here, too. Your environment-loving, subway-taking, wannabe-good citizen 18-year-olds will thank you (maybe even with their votes).

Lightning bolt ratingout of 5 possible bolts

 

MORE PROBLEM-SOLVING FROM THE CITIZEN MYSTERY SHOPPER

An 18-year-old Citizen Mystery Shopper votes in the April 2024 primary election for the very first time.

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