While the 2012 election has passed, on the day when the fate of the country’s leadership hinged on the people, they made themselves count.
On Nov. 6, voters cast their ballots in school cafeterias, recreation centers and American Legion posts. Each polling place was staffed with an elected “judge” – and individual in charge of supervising voting, enforcing regulations and resolving any issues – and several poll workers.
Jim Adams, 71, a judge at the Bridesburg Recreation Center polling place, said that turnout was unusually high.
“It’s going good. We got over 205 people out of 966 so far,” he said at around 11:30 a.m. on Election Day. “We usually only get 170 to 180 people total, even for a presidential election. We don’t get a lot of people voting, unfortunately.”
Overall, according to www.phillyelectionresults.com, about 61 percent of the registered voters in Philadelphia came out to the polling booths. The River Wards averaged 54 percent of registered voters participating, according to numbers available at press time.
Philadelphia is divided up into 66 wards, which are divided into divisions, each of which had its own polling place.
“I think this election definitely matters,” said Carrie Thompson, 25, a nurse from Bridesburg voting for the first time, who cast her ballot for President Obama. “In the past, I didn’t really see the difference one way or the other. This year, there are huge differences between the candidates.”
“I voted for the change that I voted for last time, when I voted for Obama. That change didn’t happen. So I voted for Romney,” said 52-year-old voter and Port Richmond resident Brian S., who declined to give his last name.
“I’ve got very mixed feelings. It’s my first time voting and I got the wrong info about my voting address,” said Frank Stypulkowski, 60, as he left the Samuels Recreation Center in Port Richmond to visit a different polling location.
City Commissioner Al Schmidt said a spike in provisional ballot use this year likely could be connected to changes in polling places. He said more than 800 polling locations were moved since 2004 in order to find more handicapped-accessible polling locations.
“People think provisional ballots or absentee ballots aren’t counted and don’t count unless it’s a close race. That’s not true,” Commissioner Schmidt said. “It’s not a matter of whether it’s a close race; every vote is counted and every vote counts.”
Voting this year required pushing buttons on electronic polling machines, which was difficult for some voters.
“It went well, considering I don’t know anything about computers. I was a nervous wreck!” said one woman after voting in Port Richmond.
The polling machines store votes on memory cartridges. When polls closed, police brought the cartridges to regional centers around the city where results were tabulated in a computer database.
Most River Wards voters who spoke to Star said they voted to re-elect President Obama.
“I voted for Obama,” said Martha Lineman, 69, a retired data entry clerk, after voting at the Stephen A. Douglas School in Kensington. “I think he’s headed in the right direction. He inherited a lot of problems, and I don’t know if a new regime would make a big difference really.”
“We gave the other guy eight years; we should give Obama eight years, too,” said Caitlin Brown, 22, of Port Richmond, a Community College of Philadelphia student. “I don’t feel angry with the president, but I know some people do because they don’t feel he’s done enough. But four years compared to eight years is not that long of a time.”
“I think he’s doing a fair job by giving the economy a lot of attention. He deserves four more years,” said Troy Sutton, 51, a building manager, outside the Towey Playground polling place in Fishtown.
“I voted for Obama. It was more of not voting for Romney. That would be horrible,” said Tristan Atkins, 28, outside the Bodine High School for International Affairs in Northern Liberties.
“I want to see another four years of the president we have now because I think he’s on the up and up. Give him another four years and see what he can do,” said Bob Muckleston, 31, of Kensington, an employee at SugarHouse casino.
But Muckleston said the presidential debates need to be redesigned.
“Let us ask some questions, and get the questions we want asked answered. The town hall format is old,” he said.
Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.