Philly rolls out its first ‘one-stop shop’ voting locations

The first voter at the Liacouras Center satellite election office, Priscilla Bennett, fills out her official mail-in ballot, and demonstrates for the press the process. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The first voter at the Liacouras Center satellite election office, Priscilla Bennett, fills out her official mail-in ballot, and demonstrates for the press the process. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philadelphia opened seven new satellite voting locations across the city Tuesday morning — “one-stop shops,” so to speak, of the election process. Eligible city residents can register to vote, then request and receive mail-in ballots in person, vote and return the ballots, all in the same place.

Marketa Heard (left), Janet Peterson (center), and Theresa Thomas were the first voters in line at the Liacouras Center satellite election office in North Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

At Temple University’s Liacouras Center, Theresa Thomas, Janet Peterson and Marketa Heard were the first three voters in line this morning.

“Anybody that’s listening that can hear, y’all got to get y’all ass out here and come out to vote the right way,” Thomas said.

“This is our God-given right to vote,” Heard said. “We have a monster, a sinister monster, as a president … I told everyone in my community, go and vote, we need to get this man out of there.”

Demonstrating the process during a press event at the Liacouras Center was Priscilla Bennett, who lives in North Philly and became the very first Philadelphian to submit her mail-in ballot for the 2020 general election. As city officials and reporters watched, Bennett filled out the mail-in ballot application, completed her ballot at a secrecy dock, sealed it in its envelope, and submitted it for drop-off.

The first voter at the Liacouras Center satellite election office, Priscilla Bennett, first requests a ballot, which will be printed at the office. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The entire process took about 20 minutes.

City officials hope the satellite offices will increase voter turnout and provide options for every voting Philadelphian.

“I think for a lot of new voters — immigrant voters in particular — they have a lot of questions before Election Day, and it really helps to come here … to be able to register in person, when it’s often something that’s done remotely, assures people that there’s a level of responsibility and responsiveness that often dissuades some voters from participating,” City Councilmember Helen Gym said.

An in-person option can help kick-start the engagement and education process, Gym said, especially when it comes to language barriers or lack of voter outreach.

“It allows these voters to feel like they can talk to somebody, to ask certain questions, to bring somebody with them to help ask those questions,” she said.

Voting locations

Seven voting sites are open right now, with plans to open 10 more in the coming weeks. They are open from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Currently open

  • Center City: City Hall (Room 140), 1400 JFK Blvd.
  • Far Northeast: George Washington High School, 10175 Bustleton Ave.
  • Upper North: Julia De Burgos Elementary, 401 Lehigh Ave.
  • North: Temple University’s Liacouras Center, 1776 N. Broad St.
  • Northwest: Roxborough High School, 6498 Ridge Ave.
  • Southwest: Tilden Middle School, 6601 Elmwood Ave.
  • West: Overbrook Elementary School, 2032 N. 62nd St.

Opening soon

  • Center City: Riverview Place, 520 N. Columbus Blvd.
  • Far Northeast: Joseph H. Brown School, 3600 Stanwood St.
  • Lower Northeast: Harding Middle School, 2000 Wakeling St.
  • Northeast: J. Hampton Moore School, 6900 Summerdale Ave.
  • Upper North: Feltonville Intermediate School, 238 E. Wyoming Ave.
  • Upper North: Julia Ward Howe School, 5800 N. 13th St.
  • Northwest: A.B. Day School, 6324 Crittenden St.
  • River: Mastbaum High School, 3116 Frankford Ave.
  • South: Creative and Performing Arts School, 901 S. Broad St.
  • West: Alain Locke School, 4550 Haverford Ave.

City Commissioner Lisa Deeley estimated a 50/50 split between those voting in person and by mail, “maybe 400,000 mail and 400,000 in person — we’re already at 300,000 mail-in applications, and it’s only September,” she said Tuesday.

Is there any particular method officials recommend, given that there are so many options?

“I’d recommend that people do whatever they feel is best for them,” Deeley said. “But absolutely, with all these different options, everybody should be part of the process.”

“And make a plan now,” added the city’s deputy communication director, Mike Dunn. “Whatever option you choose, don’t wait until the last minute to decide.”

During Tuesday’s rollout, several sites went offline due to technical difficulties. As of 2 p.m., all sites were functioning regularly with the exception of Tilden Middle School in Southwest Philadelphia. Officials said during a city briefing that they were working to bring it back as soon as possible.

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