Waiting for voters who didn’t show up doesn’t dampen spirits of engaged Philadelphians

Low voter turnout in Philadelphia in the Tuesday primary election was hardly a surprise to veterans of local politics. But for some young newcomers to the game, it was an eye opener.

Ben Stango, a member of the group Young Involved Philadelphia, spent the entire day working at a polling station — or rather, not working.

Long hours, little action

The day started at 6:15 a.m. when Stango reported as majority inspector for Ward 8, Division 5, at the Warwick building on 17th and Locust. And then the long wait for voters began.

“Overall, it was an incredibly slow, monotonous day of democracy,” said Stango with a laugh. Fourteen hours later, a grand total of 38 voters had cast their ballots at Stango’s location.

Stango is among young city residents who are working to foster civic engagement — who want to find new solutions to old problems, and tackle city issues such as education, transportation and green spaces.

“I think there’s a new generation of folks in this town, who are going about things in a different way,” he said.

Remaining hopeful and engaged

Stango, who said he felt tired and somewhat “depressed” at the end of the day, remains determined to stay involved.

“I left seeing the reality of what that side of Philadelphia looks like, what elections in an off year in this city look like,” he said. “And at the same time, I left thinking, ‘Gosh, we have a lot of work to do.’ That’s exciting, so it’s time to dig in.”

Work to increase voter turnout for the next important elections for Philadelphia, slated for 2015, has to start now, Stango said. He added that it will take a lot of manpower and shoe leather to get people to care about every local election.

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