A strong turnout at the polls in Northwest Philadelphia

Voters throughout Pennsylvania will head to the polls today to make their picks in the 2012 General Election.  

In Northwest Philadelphia, NewsWorks reporters and photographers will be spread out between the seven neighborhoods to check in at polling stations and catch up with local elected officials as they cast their ballots. 

Check this blog throughout the day for the latest from Northwest Philadelphia up until the polls close at 8 p.m. (Scroll to bottom of post for video taken at this afternoon’s political gathering at Relish in West Oak Lane)

If you voted today, how was the scene at your polling station? Tell us in the comment section below or send a photo to nwproducers@whyy.org

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Just a reminder: Poll workers may ask you for your photo ID but you are not required to do so in order to cast your vote in this election.

8 p.m. update

The polls have officially closed in Pennsylvania. We’re signing off from Northwest Philadelphia for the night.

7:30 p.m. update

NewsWorks freelance photographer Bas Slabbers reports that, as of about 7 p.m., 334 of the 506 registered voters on the books in the 11th division of Ward 22 have showed. In the ward’s 12th division, 426 out of 621 registered voters have cast their ballot.

7:20 p.m. update

Mt. Airy resident Elisabeth Mercer told NewsWorks that her husband, who is registered as an independent, was told at their polling place this morning that he could not vote for any candidates, only ballot questions.

“Luckily, someone else at the polling location fixed the issue, but it was a minor scare and shock,” wrote Mercer, who votes at Germantown Christian Assembly on East Mt. Pleasant Avenue.

While alternative party voters can’t vote during Democratic and Republican primaries, they can during general election contests.

6:30 p.m. update

NewsWorks’ contributor Yasmein James was at Germantown House this morning and filed this report:

At approximately 2 p.m., there were just a handful of voters in the basement of the Germantown House, a new polling site that was previously housed at a nearby library.

Poll workers said the polling place has been relocated several times in the past couple years, which longtime voter Lillian Broaddus immediately mentioned when she walked inside.

“They should have it in the same place every time because it can deter people from voting,” said Broaddus. “I had to call just to see where I was voting today.”

Residents at New Courtland Life only had to take the elevator down from their apartments to vote, which is what Betty Jones, 65, did more times than she would have liked.

In addition to volunteering to assist new voters and voting herself, she went down again to inform residents of a threatening phone call that she had just received.

On the phone was an unidentified man who was trying to sway her vote by telling her that she had voted for the wrong candidate.

Jones, who supports Obama, hung up the phone, hoping the man would leave her alone.

He didn’t.

When he called back, Jones informed him that the conversation was irrelevant because she already voted. He responded by stating “that can be fixed.”

Rattled and filled with confusion, she informed her neighbors about the incident.

“I am glad my sugar was going up because they would have got it,” said Jones, who has an unlisted number. “I hope they catch him because he ain’t changing my mind.”

4:40 p.m. update

NewsWorks freelancer Jana Shea caught up with Jonna Naylor, who heads the Mt. Airy Learning Tree, earlier this afternoon. Here is her report:

Jonna Naylor signed up to drive voters to the polls between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. today.

Before heading for a local Obama campaign office on Germantown Avenue for her instructions, though, she gets a call from one of MALT’s instructors.

He tells Naylor that his dance class was cancelled last week when Hurricane Sandy blew through the region and that he’s considering rescheduling it for tonight.

True to her Texan straight-talking nature, Naylor bluntly tells the man that, on Election Day, no one is likely to show up to his class.

“Have you voted?” Go vote!” she tells him before getting off the phone.

Getting out the vote is crucial in this election, says Naylor. Driving folks to the polls is one more way she feels she can help.

Naylor, who supports Obama, has already contributed some of her free time on weekends to canvassing and telephone outreach. She says she believes the stakes are high and is fearful that, if elected, Gov. Mitt Romney will implement policies similar to those of former President George W. Bush.

Not far from the campaign office, Naylor chats with a first-time voter and helps direct her toward her polling station at Mt. Airy’s Engine 9, Ladder 21 fire station. Voting “is more important than anything” Naylor tells the young woman.

Inside the bustling campaign office, Naylor navigates through throngs of volunteers to let organizers know she is at the ready. She presents her driver’s license, insurance and registration.

Naylor is told, however, that it could take a while before she is sent out. She decides to make use of the wait time to visit her nearby polling station and cast her own vote.

Upon her return, she’s told that the amount of volunteers who have come out has surpassed the need for drivers.

Naylor is instead dispatched to Hunting Park Avenue in Nicetown to canvass for the remainder of the afternoon slot.

She’s not discouraged, but impressed that the overwhelming response from volunteers in Northwest Philadelphia has led her to another area.

“I don’t mind. The need is greater there,” she says.

4 p.m. update

NewsWorks freelancer Trenae V. McDuffie covered early morning voting at Grace Baptist Church in Germantown. Here is her report:

Despite a consistent rush of early risers and those heading to work, voters said they did not have to wait long at the West Johnson Street polling location. In fact, regular voter Antoinette Brown said there never is much of a delay here.

“I’ve been doing it for several years; this is the second presidential election I’ve done here,” she said. “I’m always in and out. Never a wait. People are very helpful.”

Brown, who called her son and her family in Baltimore to remind them to vote, compared her enthusiasm from the 2008 presidential election to that of today’s.

“We only get one shot today,” Brown said. “It’s not that I’m not as enthused I’m just trying to talk to as many people as I can, because we need to get him back in and some people have lost hope because things aren’t moving as fast as they think they are. But, change happens gradually.”

Terrance Tolbert was at the polls at 7:30 a.m. He was fifth in line.

“I’m a little bit more enthusiastic to remain consistent than a new change,” he said.

Meredith Quick opted for the early morning rush because her church — the Circle of Hope in South Philadelphia — is hosting a post-election communion tonight.

“Sort of to profess our true allegiance,” Quick said. “It starts at eight and I wanted to make sure that I was there and not stuck in a line somewhere. Regardless of who wins the election, Jesus is the hope of the world, not Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.”

This election was meaningful for several first-time voters in Germantown. Petra Brizan-Brown, from Germany, became an American citizen three years ago. She cast her vote early as a new American citizen.

“I wanted to come out because it is my right and I also see it as a duty,” she explained. “I was pretty happy to do that first thing this morning before work.”

In 2008, Warren Simmons was 17 years old.

“The last election, I missed by a year,” Simmons said. “So, instead, I did community service at a campaign office. I made the calls. I [helped with] the registration.”

Simmons — who said he spent time hearing the parties’ policies on Medicare — admitted that he didn’t have as much time to help with this year’s election, but found ways to spread the word to others about the importance of voting.

“I loaded everyone’s cell phone,” Simmons said. “Twitter — I took a picture of someone and put it on Instagram. Even Myspace. I know Myspace is out of date, but I went on there anyway. I want everyone to get the message. It’s so important to vote.”

3:45 p.m. update 

Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Tony Auth has been dispatched into the field this election day to capture the excitement and atmosphere of different polling places around the Delaware Valley. Check out photos 1-3 for illustrations of the Knights of Columbus polling station in Roxborough. 

3:35 p.m. update

Colin Washington, a LaSalle student, filed this report for Philadelphia Neighborhoods/WHYY:

Several voters filed into Stenton Station in East Mount Airy this morning to cast their vote in this year’s general election.

Parked in a spot near the entrance of the SEPTA stop’s small ticket office was a yellow 1949 Cadillac convertible with a red, white and blue campaign poster on the passenger door.

“Vote Foster for U.S. Congress,” it read.

Foster is Jim Foster, an independent candidate running in the Second Congressional District against incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and Republican hopeful Robert Mansfield.

As he stood near the intersection of Upsal and Ardleigh streets, Foster readily acknowledged that the race has always been an uphill battle, an “outside race,” as he put it.

“Congressman Fattah has never been challenged by anyone who was serious,” he said. “No one has run a campaign that has any visibility.”

Despite his chances, the East Mount Airy resident didn’t pass up the opportunity to chat about his candidacy along the tracks as voters got on and off the train.

The 69-year-old went into great depth about the deficiencies in the area and how Fattah has not addressed these issues.

Foster said he believes that his democratic values and rapport with the community could put this area on a better path to the future.

“I don’t think the community is aware of just how much federal dollars are channeled here versus the rest of the district,” said Foster.

“He (Fattah) brought in the 190 million last year and 152 of it was concentrated in University City and Center City,” he continued. “The areas that he neglects are the ones with the highest need. Where the money goes is where the people are fat cats and can already raise their own private businesses.”

Foster told NewsWorks this morning that he planned on coasting for the rest of the morning, having already cast his ballot around 9 a.m.

But look for him at the station around 3:30 p.m., he said.

He’ll be back there alongside his vintage automobile with pamphlets in hand that read “Foster for Reform.”

3:30 p.m. update

NewsWorks Editor Brian Hickey filed this report from West Oak Lane this afternoon:

The Famous Fourth Street Delicatessen near South Street has long been Election Day’s place for politicos to see and be seen. That continues to this day. However, state Rep. Dwight Evans has managed to fashion another electoral hot spot at Relish restaurant on the same block of Ogontz Avenue as his West Oak Lane district office.

To be sure, Tuesday saw a slew of names that would be bolded in a political-gossip column. In no particular order, Evans was joined by U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, Mayor Michael Nutter, City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, state Sen. Anthony Williams, City Council President Darrell Clarke, District Attorney Seth Williams and City Councilmembers Curtis Jones Jr., Marian Tasco, Bill Green, Maria Quinones Sanchez and Blondell Reynolds Brown.

Also on hand was aspiring City Controller Bret Mandel who said turnout has been great today, but that it was a “little depressing” to think about how it won’t match these same numbers when he runs for office in May.

For much of the afternoon event, the center of attention at Relish was national NAACP President Benjamin Jealous who spoke with NewsWorks about the voter-ID issue and controversy. Noting that the anti-disenfranchisement efforts have beared some successes, “there are still some concerns in Philadelphia.”

He pointed out that while touring the city today, he had heard of several instances of misleading ID-requirement posters being posted in polling places. (An aide told NewsWorks that he would be emailing pictures of said locations this afternoon). Jealous said these issues are more pronounced in North Carolina.

“There is more voter intimidation [in Pennsylvania] now than four years ago,” Jealous said. “Speaking with the head of the North Carolina Board of Elections, he said he has not seen this level of voter intimidation in 20 years.”

Regarding the voter ID push, Jealous said “unfortunately, there are extremists in some parties who want to take shortcuts, people using the law to suppress the vote.” He said that sort of effort dates back to the founding of America when women, non-whites and men who did not own land were excluded from having a say.

3:15 p.m. update

NewsWorks Editor Brian Hickey filed this report from East Falls this afternoon:

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, up for re-election to a tenth term representing the second district, arrived to vote at the Memorial Church of the Good Shephard in East Falls at the strike of noon.

The 205th voter in his district, a poll worker pointed out that they had about 50-percent turnout at that point, which Fattah liked to hear. She also said that there “are a lot of people objecting to showing ID.”

It was around that point that Fattah did not flash a photo ID and was told that he would have to bring one the next time he comes to vote. He then went in the booth, pushed buttons for his preferred candidates and emerged to discuss what he plans to do with his next term, predictions for an Obama victory tonight and that whole voter-ID issue that had just cropped up.

Fattah predicted that the incumbent president, with whom he looks forward to work on a yet-announced anti-poverty initiative in Philadelphia, would win all nine “battleground states.”

Not even acknowledging the possibility that he might lose a race for which he did not actively campaign often, he said being tied for the most tenured Pennsylvania representative (along with Mike Doyle who represents much of Pittsburgh) puts his career in perspective but that “there is still a lot of work to do.”

Fattah hoped that the hyper-partisanship that has gripped the House and Senate, which he said started with the Bill Clinton impeachement efforts, would have to be set aside so America could keep pace with international competition in both commerce and power.

“My hope is that we’ll get to the point where we work together and realize the challenges facing the country are bigger than Republican/Democrat disagreements,” he said.

As for the voter ID issue, Fattah said that the fact that he used an ID before voting for Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as well as signing in and certifying that he is who he claimed to be “should be sufficient” to vote.

2:50 p.m. update 

NewsWorks Editor Brian Hickey talked with NAACP President Benjamin Jealous today, who says NAACP officials have photos of Philly polling places with misleading “show ID” signs posted.

“We’re seeing more voter intimidation than four years ago,” said Jealous. “[This] fight [is] so important as it pits those who believe in democracy’s promise vs. those who exploit its worst tradition: disenfranchisement.”

Hickey also talked with Mayor Michael Nutter at Relish in West Oak Lane this afternoon about the long lines at the polls.

“I’ve seen people wait in long lines for the lottery, especially when the Powerball is a big prize,” Mayor Nutter said. “[The] long line is worth it.”

At Journey’s Way in Roxborough, NewsWorks contributor Bas Slabbers reports that 264 of the 637 registered voters in the 21st Ward’s 27th Division have voted so far.

2:30 p.m. update

NewsWorks contributor Yasmein James was at the Finley Recreation Center this morning and filed this report: 

Minutes before the polling booths opened at Charles M. Finley Recreation Center, confusion was building about where voters should go.

Ninth District City Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco said there were people from two different wards and six different divisions voting at that location, which contributed to what she referred to as “chaos.”

“Normally I don’t’ think it would have been so chaotic except that we had to move a polling place in here from a church in the 50th Ward and the 27th Division because the church is not handicapped accessible,” said Tasco, who was wearing a t-shirt depicting President Barack Obama. “Then two divisions are voting in the same room so the confusion came from what line to stand in and where to go.”

At times, one of the lines was so long that many people had to stand outside. State Representative Dwight Evans tried to make the process a bit easier by preparing and instructing voters where they should go based on their address to keep them out of the cold.

Evans was scheduled to vote at 7 a.m. but waited until there was an opening at 9:30 a.m. so he could allow voters to cast their ballots first.

“I gotta let them vote first, I am not going to jump in front of them,” said Evans. “It’s like having a guest at your house, you let them eat first.”

For Bruce Osbourne, the line was the last thing on his mind as he wanted his grandson who stood beside him to see what adults should do in order to maintain their voice.

“I want him to see it because as you get older there are responsibilities and things that I strive for and I want him to see that you have to participate in voting and other things and this is the first way of him learning how to do this,” said Osbourne.

Richard Berry, 77, voted to re-elect President Obama and feels this election day is even more special than the one in 2008.

“This one here is a little special because he has proved himself and now we need to get him back in the White House if we can,” said Berry.

Marcellus Willoughby, 23, agreed with Berry’s sentiments. Exiting the polling booth he was smiling so hard because he said, “I know what I want.”

Assistance with education is one of Willoughby’s biggest concerns since he has a younger sister and girlfriend who are both currently in school. He is also hoping for lower tax rates for the middle class.

“For somebody to sit there and say that the government should not fund them for being in school or something like that is dead wrong,” said Willoughby, referring to Gov. Mitt Romney’s comment about the “47 percent.”

1:30 p.m. update

Francis Hilario, a Temple University student working with Philadelphia Neighborhoods/WHYY, filed this report:

By mid-morning, 150 people had voted at the Roxborough Library on Ridge Avenue and that number is continuing to grow through sporadic flurries of crowds.

“This is about the sixth polling place I visited since 7 o’clock,” State Rep. Pam DeLissio said, “and it has been awesome.”

According to 21st Ward Leader Louis Agre, this year’s turnout was higher than the library experienced during the previous election.

As far as technical issues go, the library experienced no problems with their voting booths.

“It could be 10 years I’ve been doing this,” Bob Duffy, judge of elections at the library, said. “I know how to iron out the bugs so we don’t even call [technicians] but we never have problems here.”

The library saw a variety of voters who voted differently from one another. Some, like Tony Knighton, voted based on his own political affiliation.

“I voted straight Democratic,” Tony Knighton said, “because I’ve always been a Democrat and Democrats are aligned with my philosophy of what government should be.”

Others, like Margaret Hayes, voted because of their opposition towards a specific political party.

“I’m scared about the other party,” Hayes said. “Scared stiff.”

Lenny Bracale voted for both parties but sees no positive outcomes from either of them.

“There needs to be more parties,” Bracale said. “[Democrats and Republicans] are both thieves. It’s going to crush America.”

Despite seeing only negatives, Bracale voted in order to get his voice heard.

“I can’t complain and not say anything without voting,” Bracale said, “so I feel like I need to vote but I’m hoping a third party candidate comes out.”

1:05 p.m. update 

NewsWorks contributor Bas Slabbers captured this video of Mayor Michael Nutter after he voted at the John Anderson Cultural Center on Overbrook Avenue this morning.

“I could barely sleep waiting to get up this morning and get out to vote,” Mayor Nutter said outside the polling station. “The President is gonna win. He’s certainly gonna win big in Philadelphia. He’ll take Pennsylvania and I expect the same in Ohio and Florida. The President has been doing his job and now, as voters, we need to come out and do our job.”

12:40 p.m. update 

NewsWorks Editor Brian Hickey was at Good Shepherd Church in West Oak Lane with U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah as he voted this morning. Rep. Fattah did not bring a photo ID and was told he would need to bring one to the polls for future elections. When Hickey asked him about it after voting, he noted that he has voted for Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama in “a place where the neighbors know you” and added that signing a book stating you are who you say you are “should be sufficient.”

12:10 p.m. update 

NewsWorks contributor Matthew Grady checked in with Ninth District Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who spent the morning at a new polling location at Finley Recreation Center in West Oak Lane.

About 300 people have voted at the site so far, which represents segments of the 10th Ward.

“It’s been crazy,” she said, “but they are coming out to vote.”

12 p.m. update 

NewsWorks Editor Megan Pinto reports that there was no line at the Church of the Living Saviour polling station on Silverwood Street in Roxborough around 11:15 a.m. Poll workers said 154 people had already voted there this morning and they are expecting a total of 250 voters by the end of the day. 

10:45 a.m. update 

WHYY’s Zach Seward is working on a radio piece about the voting scene at the Allens Lane SEPTA station in West Mt. Airy this morning. He talked with Penny Colgan-Davis, an Obama supporter who waited in line for an hour before casting her vote.

“I think all of us are really afraid that Obama won’t win,” she said. “I’m just hoping in the good thinking of people in America, to think about the future of the country and that they’ll vote for Obama.”

He also spoke with Ruby Payette, a young woman who was casting her very first ballot.

“I’ve been talking to some friends that I know are voting for opposing parties from me. I’m democratic and they’re voting republican,” she said. “I’m kinda scared, but at the same time, excited, because I get to have a say in my president.”

10:15 a.m. update

NewsWorks contributor Meg Frankowski was at the fire station at Ridge Avenue and Cinnaminson Street this morning and filed this report: 

By 7:30 a.m., 50 people were already in line to vote at the fire station. State Rep. Pamela DeLissio was one of them. While there, she spoke to voters about the voter ID law, which was put on hold for this election.

DeLissio has advocated to postpone the law, saying that the time frame to enact it was too short. She says she was “thrilled” that the law was not put in place for this election, although she does support “protecting voter integrity.”

Jeff Smith, a committee person who has been working at poll stations in the area for more than 25 years, says a Presidential election typically brings out 85 percent of voters in the Roxborough/Manayunk area.

“We’ll see a lot of people out here today,” said Smith, “I think we’ll see 100 voters by 10 o’clock.”

Many families visited voting booths this morning with their children before the first school bell rang.

“I’d like to think there’d be a big turnout of voters today,” said Leslie Martin, who voted before taking her daughter, Chloe, to kindergarten at Waldron Mercy Academy.

Her husband, Brian, says he believes the presidential race is close, but he has a feeling that President Barack Obama will be re-elected.

“This area is mostly Democratic,” said Brian, “I think most people here are Obama supporters.” But early morning voters Bilal Malik and Steve Sakamoto of Manayunk said it’s too tight to call.

“It’s a tight race,” said Malik, “either one could win,” 

10 a.m. update 

NewsWorks Editor Brian Hickey says there was some voter ID confusion at Mifflin Elementary School this morning. A few people handing out leaflets at the school told him that an East Falls woman was told by a poll worker at Mifflin that she couldn’t vote if she didn’t have a photo ID. After rummaging through her purse and coming up with nothing, she started to make a fuss. As she began filling out a complaint form, another poll worker came over to try to smooth things over by figuring out what went wrong and singing Kumbaya. In the end, the woman was able to cast her vote. 

9:30 a.m. update 

As you make your way to the polls today, here are a few numbers to keep in mind:

1-866-OUR-VOTE – The Committee of Seventy’s election watchdog line 
215-686-9643 – A line to report allegations of voter intimidation
215-686-1590 – Stephanie Singer, chair of City Commissioners, which runs election in Philadelphia, said voters should call this number to report malfunctioning voting machines.
717-787-5280 – Pa. Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation 

8:30 a.m. update 

NewsWorks reader and WHYY employee Art Ellis reports that one of the two voting machines at Allens Lane Art Center in Mt. Airy was broken this morning. He says a technician was on the way and the line was moving more smoothly when he left at 7:40 a.m. 

7:45 a.m. update 

The voting line at Lingelbach Elementary School at Wayne Avenue and Johnson Street in Germantown is wrapped around the hall. NewsWorks contributor Kiera Smalls estimates about 15 to 20 people are in line there. Some are leaving because of the line and plan to come back later. Poll workers at Lingelbach are reminding voters that they need to go to their assigned location to vote. Some people who showed up to vote this morning were not on the location’s list. Smalls says, so far, it’s a ‘for Obama’ crowd from the few she asked in line. 

At Mifflin Elementary School in East Falls, NewsWorks Editor Brian Hickey reports that the line is not outside yet, but it’s getting there. He’s hearing from the crowd that “every Republican in the Falls” is voting at Mifflin right now.

At Philadelphia’s 5th Police District headquarters at Ridge Avenue and Cinnaminson Street in Roxborough, about 50 people are lined up to vote. NewsWorks contributor Meg Frankowski reports that Rep. Pamela DeLissio, who was there at 7 a.m. to vote this morning, was “thrilled” that the voter ID ruling was pushed off until after the election.

“Can you imagine if voter ID was an overlay for this?,” she said.

Committee person/poll worker Jeff Smith expects 100 voters at the 5th District by 10 a.m. 

7 a.m. update 

The polls in Pennsylvania are now open.  To find out where your assigned polling station is, enter your address here.  For a list of polling places in Northwest Philadelphia, check this NewsWorks article.  

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