There were no dancing mailboxes, no drumline Elmo, no spinning Questlove … today’s primary election was a quieter affair than last November’s midterm, or the Presidential elections of the last few years.
Still, something powerful was afoot among those Philadelphians who came out to vote. Philly’s primary voters were focused on changing what’s not working, on fixing our schools and lowering our crime and coming together to move our city forward.
The Citizen staff fanned out across the city, from Eastwick to Mount Airy, Cobbs Creek to Olney, to talk to voters and poll workers about what this election — and voting in general — means to them. Whether they were focused on choosing our 100th mayor or new slate of City Councilmembers, selecting judges who will uphold their duty to be fair to all of us, or considering ballot questions — everyone who voted was a civic hero, an upholder of democracy.
As Michael, a voter in Roxborough, told us, “The election means change — not only here in Roxborough, but in the whole city of Philadelphia. Out with the old and in with the new!”
Here, some other reasons why voters turned out:
We need change
“We’ve seen that it’s hard to undo things in American politics once they’ve been done,” said Nathaniel, of West Philadelphia. “These are really issues that will be affecting you for the next 30, 40, 50 years, so the best way to secure your own future is to start early and make sure you’re aware of the issues.”
“It’s really the only vehicle that we have to change things today. And people who ignore the opportunity to vote are ignoring the opportunity to change the things that are impacting us on a regular basis,” said Raymond of West Mount Airy.
“I think a lot of Philadelphians are ready for change. There’s just so much to work on, and it feels like there’s been a lot of grassroots involvement in this election and people really getting active. So, I’m excited to see what happens and hopeful and looking forward to a safer and more equitable Philadelphia,” said Kate from Fairmount.
Voting is a right — and a responsibility
“Voting is our voice. If you do not vote, you do not have a voice. It is the most basic way that we can participate in society and be civically engaged,” said Blythe, who was voting at North Light Community Center in Manayunk-Roxborough, echoed that sentiment.
“Our ancestors fought so hard for us to make a difference and to fight to get that vote. Now you have that right, you have to exercise it,” said Aaron of West Philadelphia.
“Every single election is important,” said Pedro, of Eastwick. “Don’t just wait until every four years for a Presidential election — vote every single time. It is my right, and I’m going to continue to do it until the day I die.”
… a responsibility to young(er) people
The majority of poll workers we spoke to were over 60 — and all agreed that they are waiting for the next generation of community members to step into the fray more: to vote more, to volunteer more, to be more involved in their neighborhoods. As Tyrone of Cobbs Creek told us, “You are the leaders of the future of tomorrow. We need you to get involved with the Democratic and Republican parties to make sure we change the direction of our city.”
“I’ve been voting for over 40 years and it’s very important,” Amanda from North Philly told us. “You all complain you don’t get what you deserve … You don’t vote, you don’t get what you deserve!”
“We need a lot of young people to understand the meaning of really getting out here and voting. Because if we can get them to vote, we can have a better community, a better society for the young people that’s coming up in this world today,” said Marvin, of North Philadelphia. “Just come out here and push a button — that button you push will help somebody in some community somewhere.”
“The future of our city is on the ballot and we want to know what your thoughts are, what you want your communities to be. This is your opportunity to weigh in,” said a smiling PA House Representative Malcom Kenyatta of North Philly.
There is a lot at stake
Ramona of West Philadelphia may have put it most succinctly. Why does she think it’s important to vote? “So that children will have a better education, and our elderly will be properly taken care of, and we can learn to get along in our neighborhoods.”
“Voting impacts every aspect of our lives — schools, education, crime,” said Adrian, of North Philadelphia. “And that’s why all of us should be compelled to come out and vote on Election Day.”
Reporting by Jessica Blatt Press, Christina Griffith, Olivia Jappe, Aly Kerrigan, Wyatt Lament, Lauren McCutcheon, Corie Moskow, Stella Ragas, Christine Speer Lejeune, Ava Toren
Lead support for Every Voice, Every Vote is provided by the William Penn Foundation, with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others.
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