Philadelphia polls open to long lines, some early-morning hiccups

Pa. secretary of state urges voters to report cases of intimidation.
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Pennsylvania has already recorded 10 times as many mail-in ballots this year than in 2016. Despite all of those ballots being mailed or dropped off at a satellite elections office, there were long lines Tuesday morning when the polls opened in Philadelphia.

In North Philadelphia, a polling place on Percy Street, just off Indiana Avenue, opened up an hour late. Poll workers said they had the wrong key to access paper supplies needed for the voting machines. They had to run out to another polling place to get supplies.

A long line developed, and some voters left, at least temporarily, while officials were scrambling.

A staffer with state Sen. Shariff Street said this morning, in some spots, the cold temperatures led to problems using keys to start up voting machines.

There were long, socially distanced lines throughout the city as well, including at the Community College of Philadelphia, where the first voters waited for about an hour before polls opened.

“It’s cold, but we’re here. I think it’s really important that everybody exercise their right to vote. There’s obviously a lot on the table for me as a woman. I’m also a woman in (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) so there’s a lot that goes with that too," said Isabel, a voter who declined to give her last name.

"Our leaders lead by example and the way that they talk about their people influences how their people talk about and treat each other."

Voting slowed down a bit with social distancing being enforced, but the passion was certainly there.

“It’s expected it’ll take another hour, hour and a half up to two hours. They’re estimating about a minute to a minute and a half per person,” said Brandon Bell, a voter outside of the college.

“The integrity and unity of the country is at stake,” said voter Thomas Toltaku. "So, to me, this is more important than the issue of coronavirus, economic empowerment, health care. All those things can be sorted out if we have peace and unity in the country."

Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar says this election is unprecedented on many levels.

“We all know that there’s high tension, a lot of stress, tremendous amounts of disinformation," she said. "That’s got to be incredibly confusing. Not to mention record numbers of lawsuits. And yet, we have over 2.5 million Pennsylvanians who have already voted.”

Suburban counties

The lines in the suburbs were just as long. One in Trevose stretched back about 50 yards to the edge of the parking lot, then took a sharp 90-degree turn, extending all the way to the back of the building.

Even longtime voters were surprised.

“It’s amazing,” said one voter. “I’ve been doing this for about 35 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. How long have we been waiting for, about an hour and a half, 15 minutes? So we figure about two hours.”

Voters at Bensalem High School were able to wait indoors for their turn to cast ballots. The lines moved smoothly but slowly.

Over in Delaware County, officials said there haven’t been any major hiccups at their 429 voting precincts.

But Marianne Jackson, the interim director of elections in Delco, said one thing they were not expecting was the number of ballots surrendered by voters. A voter who requested a mail-in ballot can sign it over at a polling place and instead cast a ballot in person.

“We've been busy playing a little bit of catchup, getting more of these surrender affidavits out to the precincts, because we have a number that ran out,” she said, “but we're managing through that quite nicely.”

There have been some issues with the scanners too, which Jackson believes is because the ballots were printed too lightly by the vendor.

“For anybody who did not get your ballot scanned at the precinct, please know that those are going to be brought back here to election headquarters, where they will absolutely be scanned and your vote will absolutely be counted,” she noted.

The number of claims of voter intimidation has also gone up. Deputy Secretary of Elections and Commissions Jonathan Marks says actively discouraging someone from voting is obvious. But he says the one rule that causes the most confusion is the 10-foot rule. No one can approach a voter with campaign literature, or talk to a voter about a candidate, within 10 feet of the room where voting takes place.

“If you have a municipal building, for example, and you walk down a hallway that is 50 feet inside the building, there is nothing prohibiting someone from electioneering right outside the entrance to the building," he said.

More information on voter intimidation is available at VotersPA.com.

Polls close at 8 p.m., but anyone in line at that time will be allowed to vote. However, mail-in ballot drop boxes will be locked in Pennsylvania at 8 p.m., no matter what.