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Voting Early in North Philly

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by John Fey, Editor-in-Chief

With the rise of satellite and mail-in voting around the country, many Philadelphians are utilizing the safer voting practice this election to vote for their candidate of choice. Philadelphia is a city of wide diversity and different cultural backgrounds, with a large percentage of the population being of Latino and African American heritage. This will make up a large percentage of the vote in the city, so USALA took a visit to Julia de Burgos Bilingual Elementary School in West Kensington this past Friday to see how the new voting methods were going for fellow Philadelphians.

Jose M. Perdomo of Columbia came with his family to vote in-person at Julia de Burgos Elementary, which is being utilized as a satellite voting location for voters in the area. When asked why he had come out to vote that day, Perdomo motioned to his wife, Elsa, an immigrant from Puerto Rico, and said “She jerked me out of bed.”

Perdomo believes that a vote for Biden is a vote for the American immigrant and that President Trump is not in favor of helping people like he and his wife. In the eyes of Jose and Else, Biden is going to offer more opportunities for immigrants to flourish in America than Trump will. 

With the help of volunteers who could speak Spanish, the Perdomo family was shown how to fill out their ballots while at the school. 

Julia de Burgos is one of 17 satellite voting locations in the Philadelphia region, with other prominent locations being at City Hall in Center City and Temple University’s Liacouras Center. 

Satellite voting at the elementary school was overseen by the aid of volunteers from the Working Families Party, a grassroots political party that aided in the election of District Attorney Larry Krasner. One volunteer told USALA that they were helping the voting process by passing out mail-in ballots for voters to use this election and showing people what to do in order to vote.

The volunteer told us that volunteers and pollsters are still working to make the voting process go smoothly. One benefit of the mail-in voting, she says, is seeing more and more people voting. She shared a story of a 99-year-old man who had recently come in to vote with his wife and that the convenience of the new voting process made it easier for elderly people like him. There has also been an influx of people coming to pick up ballots for the elderly so that they do not have to go out in person to vote.

Locations like Julia de Burgos were open to the public until Tuesday when the city went back to just offering in-person and mail-in voting. The locations for satellite voting have been open mostly for those who want to make their vote quickly and early.

Zakia Pugh, another volunteer, talked about everything that has gone into the voting location. She described the ballots offered here as a “standardized test version of voting.” The ballot box is guarded all day to ensure that there is no fraud or tampering of ballots at any time.

“It’s been pretty cool,” she said. The first day the location opened, volunteers saw 46 people come in to vote and drop off ballots. After that, they saw a few days of between 60 to 70 people come in. For the last week, Pugh said they had a steady 300 people a day, with their biggest day seeing 467 people come in to cast their votes.

With this being the first time Philadelphia has seen mail-in voting become a normal practice, many are wondering if this is a practice that will stay for future elections.

“I hope it continues,” Pugh said. “We’re pushing the need to vote!” She says that the feedback has been mostly positive, having heard people talk highly of the new voting methods in place while in line to vote and drop off ballots. 

With up to 75% of the voting demographics of the area being Latino, their vote will have a major impact on the Philadelphia vote this upcoming election. “It will have a huge impact, Pugh said. 

Another volunteer was Ashley, a local rap artist known as Young Alex, who rapped about capitalism and the current political landscape American finds itself in right now. In using her musical talents, Young Alex is able to express her concerns about the American political system and what people can do to make a change.

One other voter present on Friday was Sister Dolores Egner, former principal of Visitation Catholic School, located up the road from the elementary school. Bringing her family, Egner voiced her opinion on the new voting methods in place.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “This is the most important election of my 77 years.”

Egner is voting, in her opinion, for the dignity of the country. “I don’t need to look to someone who’s screaming,” referring to President Trump during the debate that was held the night before. 

A former educator and principal, Egner discussed the transition of classes to an online format and the impact of this on children. “Some are virtual, some are in-person,” she said. Like the new way of voting, Egner had this to say: “We can’t live in fear.”

November 3 is Election Day and the deadline to get your vote out. You have the option to vote early or in-person. Whatever your method of voting is, USALA has a simple message: