Lines in Pennsylvania After Only a Third of Voters Cast Early Ballots

Philadelphia voters wait in line at a polling place at around 9 a.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Courthouse News photo/Alexandra Jones)

PHILADELPHIA (CN) — While early voting and voting by mail has been the talk of the 2020 election, just a third of Pennsylvania’s eligible 9 million voters registered to do so — leaving the rest of the key battleground state to vote in person Tuesday.

One of six purple states that went red in 2016 — the others were Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Florida — Pennsylvania has been a repeat destination in the last week for both President Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

With Trump focused on the state’s suburbs, Biden has held most of his rallies in the state’s Democratic strongholds, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Later today, the Pennsylvania native is planning to stop by his childhood home in Scranton.

Meanwhile in a northwest region of Philadelphia called Manayunk, voters flocked early this morning to a polling location on Terrance Street. Masked up in the 50-degree weather, they stood in lines that queued down the block.

“I wanted to do my due diligence,” said Cianni, a first-time voter who came to the polls with her parents Tuesday morning. “Voting in person seems more reliable to me. A lot of ballots are getting lost.”

Cianni voted straight down the Democratic ticket. “I am hopeful for the best outcome,” she said, in reference to a Biden win.

Like Cianni, few of the voters who said they were casting a ballot for Biden opted to give their last names. Two Trump supporters — showing up in deep blue Philadelphia wearing red Trump masks and T-shirts — refused even to give their first names. “If you give people your name, they’ll bomb your house these days,” one said. “Go Trump!” said the other.

Both declined further comment.

While electioneering is prohibited within 10 feet of a polling site in Pennsylvania, local election boards all interpret the term differently. As opposed to actively campaigning for a candidate, passive support, including buttons or other apparel, has long been permitted in Philadelphia, so long as it doesn’t cause a disturbance. The Pennsylvania Department of State released guidance on this in 2016, but it resulted in litigation.

Just outside this Philadelphia poll site on Election Day, campaign signs make a final push for President Donald Trump and other candidates. (Courthouse News photo/Alexandra Jones)

Down-ticket, Biden voter Chris noted that he cast his ballot in the state controller race for the Republican candidate.

“I’m not one of these diehard Democrats that just votes straight ticket, but Donald Trump is an abhorrent human being,” he said. “Voting for Biden doesn’t fix this country, but it does something.”

Recalling the two voters he saw in Trump gear, Chris noted that one of their shirts had the words “Trump 45” next to an image of a gun.

“It was just like, ‘Maybe we want different things for this country,'” Chris said. “Have you ever had an argument with somebody, and you realize you’re not arguing, you’re having different conversations?”

Chris said he’s less worried about being labeled a socialist than he is about having a government will fix broken sidewalks and pay for good public education.

“To me, a massive military and violent police and these types of things — that’s not what I want,” he said.

Chris did have a little trouble finding his polling place Tuesday morning. 

“I got in two lines,” he said. “I got confused about the whole early voting location and I thought that was my polling place. I stood in line for an hour there and then I stood in line for an hour here.”

Another voter, John Kavanagh, said he opted to vote in person because he feared complications after having just became a Pennsylvania resident last month. “Once you got inside it was pretty straight forward,” he said. “There were plenty of people helping and the machines were super easy.”

As for Covid-19 fears, Kavanagh said the line moved quickly, with everyone keeping 6 feet apart, although there wasn’t a lot of space inside the polling site itself.

“It was a little cramped, but you could smell hand sanitizer everywhere, and people were wearing masks and gloves and stuff,” he said.

For him, the election cycle has been stressful. “Biden’s our only hope,” Kavanagh said.

The lines also moved quickly for a voter named Mark, who did not give his full name because he said he works for a judge.

“Generally, it’s been running smoothly, given that a lot of people are going to turn out to vote,” Mark said. While hopeful Biden will win, Mark added that he doesn’t expect to know the result of the election tonight.

A Monmouth University poll released Monday said Biden leads the president 51% to 44% among the state’s likely voters in a model where turnout is high because of mail-in ballots. Even if a lot of those ballots are rejected, Monmouth predicts that Biden will lead Trump in a low-turnout scenario 50% to 45%. 

Of the 3 million Pennsylvania voters who requested to vote by mail, approximately 2.5 million returned their mail-in ballots. This is less than half of the voter turnout that Pennsylvania saw in 2016. Broken down by party, mail-in ballots were requested by Democrats, Republicans and Independents at 63%, 25% and 12%, respectively. 

The state is set to accept mail-in ballots that arrive at polling places as late as Friday as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Late last week, before the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett gave conservatives a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court refused to let Republicans challenge that deadline extension. 

In the last 12 presidential elections, 10 of them have seen Pennsylvania voting with the winning candidate. It has been prophesied by experts to be a predictor of who wins the 2020 presidency as well. 

Philadelphia voters wait in line at a polling place at around 9 a.m. on Election Day. (Courthouse News photo/Alexandra Jones)

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