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11-02-21-election-day-jesse-zhang

The ARCH voting location on Nov. 2.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

Pennsylvania’s General Election Day ran smoothly at Penn, with nearly 400 ballots cast at campus polling locations after political groups' voter mobilization efforts. 

Voters across the city headed to their respective polling places on Tuesday to elect a district attorney, city controller, and multiple judges, according to resources provided by the student-run, non-partisan political program Penn Leads the Vote. Many students on campus who are registered to vote in Pennsylvania were assigned to a polling location in Houston Hall's Bodek Lounge or in room 108 of the ARCH Building, both of which remained open until 8 p.m. 

According to data provided by all but one voting division — division 19 in ARCH — over 380 individuals voted at Penn's polling locations. 

There were 291 ballots cast from divisions 11, 18, 20, 21, and 22 in Houston Hall and 89 cast in division 3 in the ARCH Building. It is unclear how many people voted in division 19, but two poll workers at ARCH said there were about 30 voters who voted there throughout the day. 

Out of the six divisions with reported results, 345 people voted for Democratic candidate and incumbent Larry Krasner to be the city's district attorney.

Krasner's race was called just past 11 p.m. on Tuesday night. With 96% of the vote counted as of 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, Krasner won nearly 70% of the vote — more than twice as many votes as Chuck Puerto, his Republican challenger. After facing no one in her primary or general election, Democratic City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart also won her second term last night. 

In an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian, City Councilmember Helen Gym stressed the importance of Pennsylvania in national politics, and noted that many reforms college students care about are addressed at the local level.

"On this very local level, this is a long ballot," Gym said. "There are 46 different boxes that you have to check off, and this can often feel overwhelming for young voters, but many of the things Penn students may read about in terms of criminal justice don't actually occur at the Supreme Court level. They start and are most directly impactful at the municipal level." 

Students who voted on campus during Election Day were pleased with the voting process and political groups' mobilization efforts, but they noticed lines were short.

"I appreciate that Penn had a lot of different places set up where we were able to vote on campus, so it was a very easy process, and we had a lot of great resources for us to access, too," College junior and former DP Copy staffer Emma Blum, who voted in Houston's Bodek Lounge on Nov. 2, said. 

Blum said she used PLTV's resources to help her navigate the voting process on campus, and added that as a Democrat, she found Penn Democrats' guide on this year's candidates to be particularly helpful in informing whom she selected on the ballot. 

Blum, a California native, said she changed her voting registration to Pennsylvania because she believes her vote is more impactful in Pennsylvania, which is considered a swing state

"California is always going to go Democrat," Blum said. "I feel like my vote is more important here — it means a lot more."

Like Blum, College sophomore Ilana Jacobs also voted at Houston Hall's Bodek Lounge at around 5 p.m. on Nov. 2, and she said the voting process was "quick and painless." 

Jacobs, a Democrat originally from New Jersey, said she changed her voter registration because it was more convenient for her to vote at school, and also because, like Blum, she felt her vote would mean more in a swing state. She emphasized the importance of college students voting in local elections, noting that policies made at the local level have a large impact on those who are just graduating and entering the workforce.

"I think that people tend to only care about very high-profile elections — presidential elections and such — but it is really a lot more important, I think, to vote in these local elections because that's where the policies that are most likely to affect us are made," Jacobs said. 

College first year Ava Barish also voted at the Houston Hall polling location this afternoon, and said the process took no more than 10 minutes in total. Barish added that she was disappointed to hear that a lot of her peers were not going to vote in this election. 

“This election was really important to me, not just because it was the first election I was eligible to vote in, but because these seats, and these questions, have impact in the local political atmosphere,” Barish said. “I think a lot of college students talk a big talk about wanting to see change in our government, without realizing that most of the change we want to see happens as a result of local politics, so we can’t ignore these local elections. It’s not difficult to vote, and it’s really important.”

In efforts to provide resources for students with questions about the voting process or the candidates on the ballot, several political groups like Penn Dems and College Republicans issued voting guides ahead of polls closing Tuesday night.  

In addition to explanations of how and where to vote, Penn Dems Political Director and College sophomore Noah Lewine said the group released a voter guide that included Penn Dems' endorsements with research from local progressive groups. Penn Dems endorsed Krasner after meeting with him on campus earlier this semester. Penn Dems was able to register 379 voters this semester — a record in recent history for the club, according to Lewine. He said that the club ran its registration drives as nonpartisan as possible, and over 80% of the voters registered as Democrats.

College Republicans similarly posted a voter guide to its Instagram page before the polls closed, encouraging students to vote for candidates and judges aligned with their beliefs. 

PLTV had also posted guides on its website prior to Election Day to assist Penn community members with finding their local and on-campus polling locations and understanding the candidates on their ballot

"All the resources on our website make it super easy, and a lot of local groups have endorsement slates you can look at,” PLTV co-director Harrison Feinman, a senior in the College and School of Social Policy & Practice said. “It's an important step to know who you are voting for and who is going to represent your values.”

Both PLTV and Penn Dems tabled on different parts of campus periodically throughout the semester to provide easy access to voter registration materials in anticipation of the Nov. 2 election. 

Feinman and Lewine said the University generally keeps the student body informed about upcoming elections and provides accessible voting locations on campus, but said Penn and the federal government should make Election Day a holiday to alleviate external factors, like school and work, that could make it harder for community members to cast their ballot. 

“There is no reason why we, as a country, should be forcing people to make decisions about whether or not they have to focus on their livelihood and education, and weigh that against their ability to participate in the political process. They should be able to do both,” Lewine said. 

The University has acknowledged the importance of voting and civic engagement in emails and other communications to the student body and surrounding community, but claimed they cannot make Election Day a University holiday due to state regulations. Last year, during the 2020 presidential election, Penn's Faculty Senate announced a resolution to accommodate students partaking in Election Day-related activities.

“It's really important to register to vote and to get as many people as possible registered to vote. We did a really good job of contributing that to our campus this year,” Lewine said.

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