In a year defined by pandemic, movements against racial injustice, and the general defiance of norms, Philadelphia was always going to show up and show out for Election Day in the biggest blue city of battleground state Pennsylvania.
We ended Tuesday without election results but knowing that the city turned out hundreds of thousands of ballots, offered up more than a few celebrations of democracy, and engaged a vast number of people from across the city in an exercise of their rights that will undoubtedly shape the future of the United States. We know voting is important. This Election Day, Philly proved it can be magical, too.
Photographer Alan Chin spent the day visiting polling locations and watching as Philadelphians helped one another realize their right to vote. Scroll for 8 images that tell the story of the day.
Sue Bertomeu hula-hooped in front of City Hall Tuesday with a few goals in mind. Neither explicitly involved a candidate.
“I want people not to be afraid to vote,” she said. “I want to be where the joy is: I’m out here for my grandkids. I voted by drop box.”
Annette Ellis helped her blind father Corrie Ellis, 73, into her car after they both voted at William Sayre High School, which would have been Walter Wallace Jr.’s designated voting place. Wallace was killed a few blocks away last week by Philadelphia police. “I’m voting for my 14-year old son, he’s 6′ 4″ and I’m afraid every day if he is stopped by the cops,” she said. “We need to dispel negativity, we need some happiness. I voted for Biden.”
Her father said, “I’ve been voting all my life, and I’ve been a Democrat all my life, and I’m staying a Democrat.”
First-time election workers joined veteran workers on Tuesday. Chris DiStasi decided to work the polls because he wanted to ensure everyone’s ballot was counted.
“Everybody deserves to have an easy time voting, and the only way is to show up and do the work and make it happen,” he said.
Fellow first-time election worker Kaitlin Irvine came out because “she knew a lot of people wanted to vote in-person and in the primary, it was reduced from 800 to 200 polling stations across Philadelphia.”
“Turnout has been really high in our division,” she said at the end of day Tuesday at the polls at South Philadelphia High.
“I’m a social worker and want that energy to be behind the table,” Alicia Dlugos said.
Meanwhile, the pandemic motivated Katie Phillips to work the election for the first time.
“I knew a lot of election workers are older people and I’m younger and at less risk from COVID. It’s a really positive experience,” Phillips said.
The Resistance Revival Chorus performed in front of City Hall, onboard a flatbed truck, as part of a voter motivational effort called “Joy To The Polls.” “Our goal is to bring joy, energy, and excitement to the process of voting, and de-escalate tension at the polls with music and community,” Hannah Rosenzweig said.
The full choir with over 60 members was formed in New York after Trump was elected in 2016.
West Philadelphia Election Judge Ralph Bright is a retired Army veteran and jazz drummer. He has been an election worker for over 10 years. “We had a train come in the morning, then they come in spurts,” he said, referring to the more than 1,000 people who had voted there since the polls opened.
Leon A. Williams, lawyer, and father of City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier went to the polls with his daughter in West Philadelphia Tuesday.
“I ran for District Attorney twice, but I’m out of politics now,” he said.
Miyana Jones high-fives her son Breylin, saying, “We’ve voted!”
Nick Marrandino worked the election Tuesday. A retired quality assurance inspector for the city’s parking authority, Mr. Marradino is a former ward leader and has been an election worker for many cycles. He lives in the South Philadelphia voting district where he works and voted himself in the morning, at the site. He said, “I’m happy to see a lot more participation today, not just here but throughout the ward. I thought that there might be something, tempers flaring, but no. Everybody was friendly.”