‘Philly’s got this’: Dueling rallies converge on ballot-counting center

While Philadelphia election workers count votes inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the area immediately outside has become a political battleground.

On one side of Arch Street, activists have been blasting music and demanding that election officials count every vote. On the other side, supporters of President Donald Trump called for a count stoppage and cast unsubstantiated aspersions on the legitimacy of Philadelphia’s tally. Many parroted talking points advanced by the president himself.

County officials started processing mail ballots Tuesday morning and the count, as expected, has taken days.

Carl Dix, an organizer from New York with Refuse Facism, believes the Trump campaign’s attempts to block the ballot-counting process in Philadelphia is part of a plan to steal the election.

“So they come to a place like Philadelphia with a lot of Black people. A lot of Latinos. And others who they think will vote against them and say ‘Don’t count their votes,’” Dix said.

Other protesters called for Philadelphia to stop counting “illegal votes.” There’s no evidence in Pennsylvania of illegal or improper voting this year.

Michele Bodine came from the Poconos because she believes Democrats are trying to steal the election.

“They sneak in whatever they wanna sneak under cover of darkness,” Bodine said. “That’s how the Democrats do all their work, under the cover of darkness. They just drop stuff on people.”

City and state representatives were among those gathered outside the convention center, assuring voters of the integrity of the ballot-counting process.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym, a Democrat, spoke to a crowd of hundreds at North 12th and Arch streets, assuring them, “Philly has got this.”

The count was paused briefly Thursday while the details of a Trump administration lawsuit were sorted out, but tallies soon resumed.

“I was just inside the area … to watch what is happening,” Gym said. “And there is no reason to worry.”

The lawsuit granted the Trump campaign access to observe ballot counting from six feet away, instead of being restricted to an area about 20 feet away.

“The counting is going fine,” Democratic State Rep.-elect Rick Krajewski told the crowd after visiting the site. “It’s boring.”

State Sen.-elect Nikil Saval echoed Krajewski, calling the ballot-counting process “just professional, accountable work” by “really extraordinary dedicated servants.”

Philadelphia City Councilmembers Kendra Brooks, left, and Helen Gym participate in a demonstration outside the Pennsylvania Convention
Philadelphia City Councilmembers Kendra Brooks, left, and Helen Gym participate in a demonstration outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center where votes are being counted, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Philadelphia, following Tuesday’s election. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The process is working, Saval said. “And we have to fight to protect that process out here, because we have to count every vote.”

As of Thursday afternoon, there are at least 80,000 mail ballots left to count in Philadelphia. Statewide, Biden has been winning mail ballots by wide margins and trends suggest Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania will evaporate when tallies are finished.

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