Philly opens its first ‘one-stop shop’ voter office of the 2024 election season

“We can't take [voting] for granted,” said City Councilmember at-large Nina Ahmad. “We have to fight for it.”

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2020 photo of the first voter at the Liacouras Center satellite election office requesting a ballot. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

2020 photo of the first voter at the Liacouras Center satellite election office requesting a ballot. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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With the Pennsylvania primary election weeks away, Philadelphia City Commissioners on Tuesday cut the ribbon on a new satellite election office.

The office at 40th and Market streets is located just steps from the Market-Frankford Line and SEPTA bus stops.

Elected officials at a ribbon cutting ceremony
Philadelphia City Commissioners open up new satellite offices. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Omar Sabir, who heads the city commissioners, said they are installing offices in all 10 council districts to improve access to voter services.

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“To make it easy where everyone can basically walk, maybe take a five-minute or so bus or a train ride, or maybe [a] $5 or $10 Uber to get to one of their offices,” Sabir said.

At the satellite offices, residents may register to vote, request a mail ballot, receive it, complete it and return it in one go.

Former Commissioner Al Schmidt, who is now Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, said the offices are nonpartisan and designed to expand voter access/

“You want every eligible voter to register, and you want every eligible voter to vote and you don’t want anything to get in the way of that,” Schmidt said.

For at-large Councilmember Nina Ahmad, the election process is personal.

“I am an immigrant,” she said. “I’m the only immigrant on City Council and in recent past history, and I deeply, deeply understand that, because the rest of the world doesn’t have this, and this is why we can’t take it for granted. We have to fight for it.”

“We have to protect it,” Ahmad continued. “Your voice is represented by your vote, and we all know that if you don’t have the ability to exercise that franchise you are left out.”

Ahmad said reproductive rights and voting rights are on the ballot in November, and Pennsylvania will play a key role in the presidential election.

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“Philadelphia is where we are at the forefront of making this election really matter so that rights are protected,” said Ahmad.

“These satellite election offices go a long way in making sure every eligible voter can cast that vote and be confident in their vote,” said Lauren Cristella, who leads the election watchdog group Committee of 70.

City Solicitor Renee Garcia added that the city has fought back after every attack on voter rights.

“Nobody should be blocked from voting for accessibility issues, language issues, whatever their family situation is, and what we see in the civil litigation side is lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit trying to restrict the franchise,” Garcia said.

Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Jen Coatsworth said that ballot access is becoming more important every day.

“We recognize that it is imperative for all the residents of our city to be able to easily register to vote, update their voter information, pick up and ultimately cast their ballots, which is why having these satellite offices is so critically important as an access to justice issue.”

To vote in the April 23 primary, Pennsylvanians must be registered to vote by Monday, April 8. The deadline to request a mail or absentee ballot is 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, and the deadline to return them is 8 p.m. on Election Day. Postmarks do not count.

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