Polls see low voter turnout overall, in Penn area
Amount of voters yesterday was large decrease from 2008 primaries
April 25, 2012, 2:04 am · Updated April 25, 2012, 2:14 am·
Alex Zimmerman | DP
With no major disputed races on the ballot in yesterday’s Pennsylvania primary, few voters went to the polls on or near campus.
According to unofficial city results, less than 2,000 people voted in Philadelphia’s Ward 27, which contains Penn. This figure is a stark decrease from the more than 6,000 people who voted in the area during the 2008 primary.
Almost all of those 2008 ballots were cast in the Democratic primary, which was hotly contested by then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Yesterday’s major races, by contrast, were all but predetermined. Obama is the unchallenged Democratic incumbent, and — with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum out of the race — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican nominee.
When Penn President Amy Gutmann cast her ballot at Steinberg-Dietrich Hall around 6 p.m., an election judge said she was just the 12th person to vote at the location all day.
“It’s been very quiet,” said Sheila Ballen, an election judge stationed at Steinberg-Dietrich. “There’s no contested primaries here in Pennsylvania today. The presidential candidates have been already decided.”
Robert Joyce, another election judge working at Steinberg-Dietrich, expressed his disappointment with the low voter turnout.
“I’ve been here most of the day, and I was expecting a little more,” he said. “I understand that there’s not a lot of attention to [the race] since a couple of people dropped out a few weeks ago, so it’s really dropped out of the national media attention.”
One of the few students who voted was Engineering sophomore Surya Murty, who said it was his “civic duty to vote.”
Daniel Flaumenhaft, an election judge stationed at the David Rittenhouse Laboratories said the presidential primary was less interesting than the local races, which students are usually less invested in.
“Generally speaking, I don’t follow the local races,” Wharton sophomore Charles Gress said. “I definitely follow [them] when I feel there’s something personal at stake.”
“I wasn’t very well-informed, so I chose not to vote for the local races,” Murty said. “I don’t know any of the names, unfortunately.”
Although few voters came to the polls yesterday, the primary was not altogether insignificant. It tested out a new state law requiring voters to present photo identification. The law had a soft launch yesterday, with election judges asking voters for identification but allowing them to vote even if they didn’t have it.
The implementation of the law’s soft launch went smoothly overall, election judges and voters said. PennCards are an acceptable form of voter identification, so there was no extra burden placed on Penn students.
“Everyone has had an ID,” said Francesca Martelli, an election judge stationed at DRL. “Some even came with it ready.”
College freshman Rachel Olvera came ready with identification. “I did some research before I came, just to make sure,” she said.
There was some reported spottiness in implementing the law. Gress said he was not asked to present his PennCard.
But Henry Bennett, a machine inspector at the Penn Center for Rehabilitation and Care voting location, said the real challenge for the law would come with the increased voters in the fall general election.
“All of them so far have had their IDs,” he said. “Come November, it’ll be a different thing. That’s when the problems are going to occur. Today, these are die-hard voters. They take it very seriously.”
Staff writers Huizhong Wu, Kai Syuen Loh and The Red and the Blue Editor in Chief Steven Jaffe contributed reporting.