April 26, 2016
With a presidential election on the horizon, voter turnout at many Northeast Philadelphia polling places was steady during Tuesday's primary elections, poll workers said.
While several polling places never saw a rush of voters this morning, there was a constant flow of people voting through the day.
At William Loesche Elementary School, at Bustleton Avenue and Tomlinson Road in Somerton, the turnout numbers were much higher. While that polling place serves eight separate districts, as of about 3 p.m., at least 650 voters had made it to the polls.
"Usually we don't have this many," said Skip Montell, a Democratic committeeperson. "It's because it's nice. If it was raining, we wouldn't get anyone."
Despite a stout Democratic presence at Loesch, one volunteer was doing her best to promote GOP candidates. But Port Richmond's Danielle Baldwin said she wasn't getting much traction in finding fellow voters who shared her party affiliation.
"They aren't even taking my flyers," she said.
Asked if she has found anyone who shares her political viewpoint, Baldwin said she didn't hold strong political opinions. Instead, she was there to support the party supported by her family since she was a child.
"It's how I was raised," she said. "I have no political views. This is just how I was brought up."
Workers at the Engine 46 firehouse polling place at Frankford and Linden Avenues in Torresdale reported a consistent stream of voters this morning.
"We've been steady so far," said Katie Brill, a Democratic committeeperson. "This is a big one, people are still invested."
She said that she expected to see a rush of voters come lunchtime.
"It's Trump versus Hillary, what more do you want?" she asked.
Turnout was characterized as light, however, according to workers at other polls.
Volunteers at one poll, however, had hoped to see high numbers of voters by the afternoon, they said. At their poll, at Northeast High School on Cottman Avenue in Rhawnhurst, voter turnout was slower - just under 60 people by 1 p.m.
According to Brian Jaraba and Chris McGuire, La Salle University students volunteering for the Democratic Party, local candidates were the most important part of Tuesday's primary.
"This is more local than anything," said McGuire. "Most people are looking for a change locally."
At nearby Northeast Regional Library, on Cottman Avenue at Oakland Street, Democratic campaign volunteers lined the block, with turnout around 1:30 p.m. a light 69 of 440 registered voters in that district.
"It's slow. A lower turnout than we expected here, especially for a presidential candidate election," said Deborah Leavy, a volunteer for Jared Solomon, Democratic candidate for state representative in the 202nd Legislative District.
And despite a dearth of voters at some polling places, there was an abundance of colorful evidence that it was primary day.
Driving along Bustleton Avenue, a green Eagles bus was decked out with promotional signs for a variety of Democratic candidates in Tuesday's elections.
Mark Hillman, a Teamsters member and volunteer with the city's Democratic party, said he was visiting polling places throughout the Northeast in the bus in order to show support for their candidates.
"I vote. I don't miss a vote," said Hillman.
But, who is Hillman's favorite candidate?
"I vote for whoever keeps me working," he joked, without divulging actual candidates.
One Northeast Philadelphia voter made it to the polls in costume.
Strutting down Bustleton Avenue in a bright red-and-blue Superman outfit – complete with cape – was Jake Benson, who said he was excited to place his vote.
Asked why he decided to dress in costume on primary day, Benson smiled and said the outfit wasn't really a costume.
"This is my normal attire," he claimed. "I decided a few years ago that I wanted to be more superhero-like."
And who is this Superman of the Northeast voting for?
"He's the only candidate who believes in truth, justice and the American way," said Benson.
Yet, at Engine 46, there were no banners for any potential presidential candidates. Instead, the area was lined with signs and shows of support for Democratic candidates in local congressional seats.
Paul Schlear Sr., who was at poll to support Kevin Boyle, a Democratic candidate in the Fifth Senatorial District, said the lack of signs are likely the result of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump having pretty much wrapped up victories in Pennsylvania.
"You won't see him [Trump] out until after Labor Day," said Schlear.
Instead, Schlear said, while voters might be motivated to vote thanks to the attention on presidential candidates, it's the local elections that will benefit from steady turnout.
"It's our God-given right as Americans. It's important that we get out to vote," he said.
Asked if he had a favorite potential presidential candidate, Schlear said he supports Bernie Sanders.
"I like Bernie. He's reaching out and touching the younger people and, I think he has a good message," he said.
At Joseph H. Brown Middle School, at Frankford Avenue and Stanwood Street in Holmesburg, some light-hearted political battling was playing out Tuesday morning.
Edward Davisson, a Democratic committeeperson, said a woman ripped a Donald Trump sign from the polling place and carried it out the door.
"People are different today. They are passionate," he said. "A woman came up and just stole our Trump sign."
Republican Jerry – who asked not to disclose his last name saying his place of employment discourages political commentary – was at the school to support Trump. He laughed at the sign theft.
"Obviously, that lady wasn't a Trump fan," he joked.
A Mayfair resident, Jerry said that he disputed the idea that Philadelphia is mostly Democratic. He personally knows there to be at least 300 registered Republican voters in his community. But, he said, less than half of them would likely vote on Tuesday.
"There's a lot of registered voters," he said. "The majority of it is Republican, but I don't think a lot of people will come out and vote."
By 10:30 a.m., the Brown school poll had seen about 70 voters.
In nearby Mayfair, at Fountain of Life Christian Church, near Frankford Avenue and Decatur Street, nearly 140 voters had already made time to cast a ballot in Tuesday's primary elections by 11:30 a.m.
"It's been really steady," said Rodney Vincent, a Holmesburg resident volunteering at the polling place. "It's like it always is out here."
A woman who asked not to be identified as she lined up to vote looked at the church and said she was surprised as a Democrat not to see much of a Republican presence in the neighborhood.
"I'm surprised," she said. "I've seen no Republican signs out here."