Poll workers report record voter turnout in Philadelphia

Election Day in Philadelphia was busy in the morning, but relatively quiet as evening set

Election Day in Philadelphia was busy in the morning, but relatively quiet as evening set in.

Poll workers at Ward 26 in South Philadelphia, Ward 36 in Graduate Hospital and Ward 46 in West Philadelphia all reported long lines as polls opened, but after 5 p.m. there was just a trickle of voters coming in.

Ward 26 was one of the few neighborhoods in the city that President Donald Trump narrowly won in 2016. As you drove through the ward, heading farther and farther south, the more signs for Trump you saw — a marked contrast with the Biden-sign heavy Center City.

Ward 26 faced record turnout according to several poll workers. In division 3, they estimated that they had nearly 80% voter turnout, once you counted mail-in ballots. Division 2 had more than 50% of voters come to cast their ballot in person.

While record turnout could imply a Republican victory, given the ward’s recent history, division 12 committee person John Zimmerman thinks that Ward 26 will swing for Biden this go round.

“I feel really good about today,” he said. “I feel better about today than last time.”

Record turnout was also reported at various divisions in Wards 36 and 46.

“We don’t usually make 100 voters,” said Ward 36, division 21 poll worker Nadine Davis. “We’re well past that.”

In fact, around 7 p.m. they were close to doubling that figure, with 180 voters coming in-person to cast their ballot.

The poll workers for Ward 46, division 15 estimated that they had 50 percent voter turnout from in-person votes alone. And in division 14, election judge William Squires said he saw the highest turnout ever.

“It was better than even when Obama ran,” he said.

READ MORE: Election Day 2020 Pa. live updates: Voters say lack of trust, tradition brought them to the polls

There had been some issues, however. Two of the voting machines for Ward 26, division 10, went down within an hour of each other, leaving volunteers scrabbling to get them fixed as voters patiently waited to cast their votes.

A similar situation had happened in Ward 46, division 14, when a voting machine broke in the morning. Squires said that the machine was out-of-commission for an hour and a half. During that time, only two voters left — the rest just waited until it was back online.

Ward 26 had some issues with people following COVID-19 protocols. Poll worker Hanna Garrity said that many people have shown up without masks, and had to be given one.

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And there were issues with mail-in ballots at nearly all the polling locations PennLive visited in Philadelphia. Most of this centered on confusion, with some unsure what to do if their mail-in ballot hadn’t been registered as processed on the state’s website yet. Others said they had never received the mail-in ballot they requested. Poll workers had those with these problems fill out a provisional ballot, but some voters didn’t understand that meant.

Others understood exactly what to do with their mail-in ballot. A bunch of people dropped off their completed ballots in person at the polling locations in Ward 26′s division 2.

Another commonality among the polling places in Philadelphia was the abundance of new and younger poll workers.

The workers for Ward 26, division 3 were all one family.

Theresa Franchetti’s mom worked the polls for 50 years, but when she passed away Franchetti decided to do her best to fill her shoes. When she heard that the divisions usual poll workers couldn’t work this year because of the pandemic, she recruited her husband, Sonny, and 22-year-old daughter, Mary, to help.

Mary Franchetti has been more than happy to assist.

“I know there’s a lot at stake this year and I wanted to help any way I could,” she said.

This was the first presidential election for 18-year-old Faith Walker, who was working the polls at Ward 36′s division 7. She felt it was important to be a poll worker, not only because she felt like it was her civic duty, but because it provided an outlet for her to feel like she’s doing something to help the issues the country is facing. She was excited to cast her own vote too.

“I remember distinctly the 2016 election,” Walker said. “Being able to participate in this election feels good.”

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