Finally fed up: Philadelphia nets record voter turnout for divisive midterm election

Similar to the primary elections in May, a heavy downpour plagued the Nov. 6 midterm elections. But despite the rain and not being a presidential election, the midterm elections garnered record high voter turnout, specifically in Philadelphia.James Thompson, 57, has…

Similar to the primary elections in May, a heavy downpour plagued the Nov. 6 midterm elections. But despite the rain and not being a presidential election, the midterm elections garnered record high voter turnout, specifically in Philadelphia.

James Thompson, 57, has been working security at the Land Title Building in Center City for the past 10 years. He said he’s never seen a higher turnout at its polling place, located in the lobby, with the exception of President Barack Obama’s election.

Megan Schneider was one of many.

“I always vote in the morning before work and I am usually one of five people, but this morning there was a line out the door,” said Schneider, 36 from East Passyunk, a physician assistant at Drexel University. “I had to wait at least 30-45 minutes until I got my turn to vote, and there was a long line of people after me.”

Holding up the lines even longer were mechanical and systems issues at a number of Philadelphia polling places. According to a public release from the Pennsylvania Election Protection Coalition, among the issues for Philadelphia: 18 precincts experienced broken or malfunctioning machines and seven polling stations did not open on time.

The coalition also reported there were general reports polling places were inaccessible due to lack of parking or locked entrances. In addition, there were reports of texts that erroneously stating polls were shutting down earlier than the scheduled 8pm close.

Pat Toy, judge of elections at the Atria Center City Senior Living polling place, explained that from her perspective there were no signs of voter suppression at her station. She did note that a couple of people’s names were not in the book, but she rectified the situation by giving them a provisional ballot. Toy said she was unsure how and why the voters’ names were not included in the book.

There were some who cast their votes out of sheer civic duty, such as 90-year-old Beverly Samuels, who said she always votes, regardless of it being a minor or major election. But while Samuels did not find any particular importance to this election, others had one clear reason for coming out.

Call it the Donald J. Trump effect.

“He has made this election about him, and people are coming to say ‘yes, we are with him’ or ‘no, we are not with him,’ said Sarah Clark Stuart, a volunteer for the Democratic committee at the Atria Center City Senior Living polling place. “This election is a big report card on Trump’s record so far.”

Russel Megan, a former volunteer with the Democratic party, said at the senior center the turnout was particularly impressive, since the ballot was already a lock.

“The chances are no matter what, Tom Wolf would have won anyway and chances are Bob Casey would have won anyway and the rest of the ballot here is uncontested, to have this many people come out is absolutely incredible,” said Megan.

Wolf and Casey did indeed retain their offices. Democrats took the House while Republicans maintained control over the Senate.

When asked for comment, the Republican committee volunteer at Atria Center City declined.

Stuart and Megan also mentioned the surge in the young vote, and that they saw many students from the Moore College of Arts, located across the street, coming over to cast ballots. Stuart did note she saw higher numbers from the students than when the polling place was located inside the college.

“I feel that the younger generation might have been a bit excluded in the last election. However, I feel like they have really stepped it up this election,” said Bindi Patel, 44, a Center City resident.

For Wharton School graduate student Shanel Fields, 33, seeing the rise from interested younger voters has been “encouraging.”

“I think it’s very important to contribute to your own destiny and have influence over politics and how our world is run,” said Fields.  

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