Now that we’re past the filing deadline for people to submit nominating petitions to get on the ballot for ward committee person seats in the upcoming primary on May 17, the city commissioners have released the preliminary list of candidates who filed to run and there are some interesting trends there worth examining.
Candidates had a chance to draw ballot positions last week and those are now published on the commissioners’ website. The list isn’t finalized yet because petition challenges are still working through the courts through EOD Tuesday.
Petitions challenge hearings began Friday at City Hall, and the Court of Common Pleas judges still need to rule on some key legal questions that could affect large numbers of challenged petitions that had similar issues related to the candidate affidavit section.
The 2022 committee person races are a little less lively than in 2018, with about 735 fewer candidates running on the Democratic side, and a proportionately lower number running on the Republican side, too.
Philadelphia’s 1,703 voting divisions can elect a maximum of 3,406 committee people in each political party, but this year there are quite a few more divisions with nobody running. That’s concerning from the perspective of anyone hoping for higher voter turnout in Philadelphia in the upcoming statewide elections for governor and U.S. Senate, since it means there will be fewer elected party supporters on the ground who are explicitly tasked with get-out-the-vote activities.
NEW: Preliminary count of Committeeperson Nomination Petitions filed, 2018 and 2022, by party. pic.twitter.com/mrgdtoRqvN
— Commissioner Seth Bluestein (@SethBluestein) March 16, 2022
Due to the 5:1 voter registration edge Democrats have over Republicans in Philadelphia, most of the intrigue around city ward elections is on the Democratic side, and that’s also our focus at the moment.
The city commissioners’ preliminary list features 2,760 Democratic candidates, but they aren’t evenly spread between the 1,703 voting divisions. Some divisions have competitive races with several people running, while others have no one at all. Petition challenges are still working their way through the courts until March 5, so it’s important to emphasize the preliminary status of these figures, though the final stats should be in this ballpark.
There are only 170 divisions with competitive races where three or more Democratic candidates are running—about 10 percent of all divisions. There are just four divisions where five candidates have filed to run, 49 divisions with four candidates, and 116 divisions with three candidates.
Wards with notably higher numbers of competitive races include Wards 1 and 2 (Bella Vista, Queen Village, Passyunk), 15 (Fairmount and Francisville), 21 (Roxborough and Manayunk), 22 (Germantown and Mt. Airy), 43 (Franklinville and Hunting Park), and 46 (University City/Baltimore Ave out to Cobbs Creek).
There are also a lot more open seats in 2022 than in 2018. Juliana Feliciano Reyes at the Inquirer, who wrote a fascinating story this week analyzing what voter file data says about Philadelphia’s committee people, reports that there were around 400 open seats in the 2018 election, while in 2022 there are about 877.
There are 285 voting divisions where nobody filed to run for either of the two available Democratic committee seats, and 307 divisions where only one candidate filed to run.
Wards with especially high numbers of open seats include Wards 3, 4, 5, 8, 11, 13, 24, 25, 27, 36, 41, 42, 48, 54, 56, 58, 60, and 61.
People who are interested in running to represent an open seat can check out the current list of candidates here and see if there are any openings where you live. It’s easy to run a write-in campaign for yourself if there’s a vacancy, and you can win with as little as one (1) vote.
It’s best to try to get a decent number of neighbors to write your name in just in case anybody else in your voting division has the same idea, and Philadelphia 3.0 will be sharing more information in future newsletters walking people through how this works.
Send an email at [email protected] or text 3.0’s ward elections help desk number at 215-770-1118 if you’re interested in talking about petition challenges, open seats and write-in campaigns, or you have any general questions.
Jon Geeting is the director of engagement at Philadelphia 3.0, a political action committee that supports efforts to reform and modernize City Hall. This is part of a series of articles running on both The Citizen and 3.0’s blog.