When the polls closed last November, most people went back to their mindset that the next time to vote was during the next presidential election in four years.
However, too many among the voting public overlook the fact that between those 48 month presidential election cycles, local elections take place – elections that have more immediate and important consequences for residents than presidential elections.
In Hunting Park, Sharon Whaley and Karen Wheeler decided to work together to remind residents of the 43rd Ward that local elections are just as important as the presidential one.
This pair, members of a branch of Organizing for Action from the Barack Obama campaign, have made it their goal to provide accurate information about people running for elected office, as well as letting people know voting locations and voting regulations.
“There are certain things we need to do for ourselves and this area,” Whaley said. “Each area is going to have their own problems. We have the lowest voter turnout in the city. It’s a serious problem.”
Whaley and Wheeler both worked area polls during presidential election night last year. And despite what popular news sources originally claimed was smooth, stress-free voting in Philadelphia, both women witnessed first-hand just how chaotic voting was on a presidential election night.
Wheeler worked at three different voting locations (one of which changed for the first time without notice) during the presidential election. At all three locations Wheeler said people were receiving false voting information. Another persistent problem, she said, was people would abandon their spots in line because the wait to cast their vote became too long.
“The 43rd ward is in total disarray – absolutely nothing has been done,” Wheeler said. “And if we don’t get a jump on it now, [the municipal primary is] not going to be a pretty election.”
As a ward though, the two agreed that there was not enough resident interest to keep people engaged in the political system all year round.
“Nobody’s interested in the [upcoming] election,” Whaley said. “Nobody knows when the primaries are [or] who’s going be on the ballot. The president’s elected and that’s it. We don’t see these people anymore, and I think it’s key to keep them energized and coming out to let them know how important their vote is.”
Whaley and Wheeler are preparing for Philadelphia’s municipal primaries on May 21. Those elections include selecting candidates for City Controller, District Attorney and judges for the statewide Superior and Commonwealth courts. These two women plan to increase voter turnout through rallying neighbors to sign petitions and encourage people to care about these elections.
Although they said they’ve had people offer to volunteer, for now, Whaley and Wheeler have been the main two to tackle resident political involvement. Whaley said that for whatever reason, Philadelphians just don’t want to volunteer.
For more information about voting locations and upcoming elections, visit the Committee of Seventy.