Thoughts on the 2021 Philadelphia Primary

Well, it’s primary season again here in Philadelphia. Now, you may be thinking, didn’t we just do this? Yes, we did. But there’s a whole new slate of positions and things to vote on:

  • State and Local Judges
  • District Attorney
  • City Controller
  • Ballot Questions

Voter Eligibility and Registration

If you’re eligible to vote in Pennsylvania, but haven’t already registered, you have until May 5th to register to vote in the primary. You have to register by May 5th to vote in the primary, which is on May 18th. You can also sign up to vote by mail, but you must do so by May 11th. Finally, for the primary, Philadelphia has 14 drop box locations, in case you’re worried the mail won’t deliver your ballot in time.

In Pennsylvania, you have to be registered with a party to vote for judges, district attorney, and city controller. However, anyone in Pennsylvania can vote on the ballot questions. So, if you’re registered to vote, but not with a particular party, feel free to jump down to the ballot questions. If you’re registered as a Democrat, read on. If you’re registered as a Republican… I’m not entirely sure what you’re doing here, but welcome! I’ll only be talking about the Democratic Candidates though. 

Leo is here to provide emotional support.

Democratic Judicial and Local Candidates

The following positions are presented in the order they’ll most likely appear on the ballots. I based my decisions mainly on the endorsements of the PA Working Families Party and Reclaim Philadelphia and the Judge Accountability Table. 

The following indicate which of the organizations endorsed them. 
* = PA Working Families Party
= Reclaim Philadelphia/Judge Accountability Table

PA Supreme Court (Only one Democrat candidate)
Maria McLaughlin*

Superior Court (Allowed to vote for 1)
Timika Lane*

Commonwealth Court (Allowed to vote for up to 2)
Lori Dumas*

Court of Common Pleas (Allowed to vote for up to 8)
Caroline Turner*
Wendi Barish*
Cateria McCabe*
Nick Kamau
Dan Sulman
Betsy Wahl*
Michele Hangley*
Chris Hall*

Municipal Court (Allowed to vote for up to 3)
Michael Lambert*
Greg Yorgey-Girdy*

District Attorney (Allowed to vote for 1)
Larry Krasner
(I’m not thrilled with Krasner, but his opponent, Vega, is running as a “law and order” candidate who wants more to bring more drug-related cases to trial. I suspect Vega’s policies will end up being disproportionately burdensome on Black and brown communities.)

City Controller (Only one candidate)
Rebecca Rhynhart

Ballot questions

There are five ballot questions, accompanied by my thoughts on them. The Philadelphia Citizen Guide has much more information about each of the ballot questions. https://thephiladelphiacitizen.org/voter-guide-pa-primary-2021/#ballot-measures

Disclaimer: I had a lot more time to think about the first 3 questions than the last two. 

Q1 – Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law and increase the power of the General Assembly to unilaterally terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration—and the powers of Commonwealth agencies to address the disaster regardless of its severity pursuant to that declaration—through passing a concurrent resolution by simple majority, thereby removing the existing check and balance of presenting a resolution to the Governor for approval or disapproval?

My thoughts: No – This seems like a Republican reaction to state mask mandates and COVID emergency declarations.

Q2 – Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law so that: a disaster emergency declaration will expire automatically after 21 days, regardless of the severity of the emergency, unless the General Assembly takes action to extend the disaster emergency; the Governor may not declare a new disaster emergency to respond to the dangers facing the Commonwealth unless the General Assembly passes a concurrent resolution; the General Assembly enacts new laws for disaster management?

My thoughts: No – This seems like a Republican reaction to state mask mandates and COVID emergency declarations.

Q3 – Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended by adding a new section providing that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of an individual’s race or ethnicity?

My thoughts: Yes – Having equal rights matters.

Q4 – Do you favor expanding the use of the indebtedness authorized under the referendum for loans to volunteer fire companies, volunteer ambulance services and volunteer rescue squads under 35 PA.C.S. §7378.1 (related to referendum for additional indebtedness) to include loans to municipal fire departments or companies that provide services through paid personnel and emergency medical services companies for the purpose of establishing and modernizing facilities to house apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, and for purchasing apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, protective and communications equipment and any other accessory equipment necessary for the proper performance of the duties of the fire companies and emergency medical services companies?

My thoughts: Yes – This expands which fire companies and ambulance services to apply for loans from the state in order to upgrade equipment, which seems important.

Q5 – Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for an expanded Board of License Inspection Review that can hear and decide cases in three-member panels?

My thoughts: Yes – This seems like it would speed up these reviews.

46 Under 46

Well, Biden is going to be our 46th President. In honor of that, I thought I’d come up with a list of 46 things I’d like to see happen under his administration. Some of these are probably more doable on a local or state level, but they’re at least things I’d like to see his administration support. 

This is not an exhaustive list. But I think it’s a pretty good list. 

Get ready. It’s a long list.

Food, Water, and Shelter

  1. Extend unemployment through the course of the pandemic and make payments retroactive.
  2. Restore food safety inspections
  3. Increase eligibility for and reduce requirements for food subsidy programs (eg, WIC)
  4. Create other programs to increase food security
  5. Eliminate hookworm in Georgia
  6. Adopt and Promote Housing-first approaches to homelessness
  7. Ensure that all Americans have access to clean water, including: access to running water for Native American communities; remediation in areas with fracking; restoring access to clean water in Flint

Voting Rights

  1. Restore the voting rights act
  2. Eliminate ID requirements for voters
  3. DC and Puerto Rico statehood

The Internet

  1. Restore Net Neutrality
  2. Ensure all Americans have access to electricity—especially in Native American communities
  3. Increase Broadband availability in rural areas
  4. Regulate Broadband like a Utility so that it’s affordable in both urban and rural areas
Keep going.

The Post Office

  1. Restore all Postal Sorting machines and service capabilities
  2. Remove the requirement for the post office to prepay pensions
  3. Implement Post Office Banking as a way to help for the underbanked

Healthcare

  1. Protect insurance coverage for birth control
  2. Eliminate the tampon tax
  3. Increase access to evidence-based addiction treatment and stop paying for non-evidence based programs
  4. Require healthcare cost transparency: what procedures costs, what is covered by insurance, etc.
  5. Eliminate ‘surprise’ healthcare bills
  6. Pass legislation that requires/implement subsidies that assist hospitals in such a way that all Americans are able to have physical access to healthcare
  7. Prioritize reducing maternal mortality in the US
Halfway there.

Physical Safety

  1. Ban assault rifles
  2. Go after white nationalist terrorists using the same tools used for international terrorists
  3. Prosecute mass shooters as terrorists
  4. Investigate all instances of police brutality
  5. Get rid of ICE and eliminate detention camps for immigrants 
  6. Ban use of rubber bullets and tear gas

Money Matters

  1. Redesign US currency so that blind people can identify the denomination of each bill
  2. Legalize and tax weed.
  3. Increase the prosecution of white collar crime
  4. Increase IRS audits of high net worth individuals
  5. Stop audits of EITC recipients, which disproportionately affects Black Americans
  6. Increase anti-trust investigations and enforcement, particularly in the tech sector
  7. Increase capital gains taxes
Just a little further.

Education 

  1. Create and subsidize a system of free city and state universities
  2. Student loan forgiveness
  3. Equiity funding for K-12 public schools to alleviate disparities based on local funding availability

The Environment

  1. Implement policies that reduce single use plastics
  2. Climate taxes on corporations
  3. Restore all pre-existing EPA protections
  4. Ban drilling and fossil fuel extraction from federally owned areas
  5. Phase out use of fossil fuels, including natural gas
  6. Improve municipal and national public transport systems
You made it!

Policing in Philly

A marshy area at Heinz Nature Preserve.
A marshy area at Heinz Nature Preserve: something soothing before we get to the serious stuff.

Before I get into the local policing information, I wanted to say that I’m really pleased that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election. I also hope that we repudiate and address systemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, graft, and cruelty of all kinds—and that demands justice from those who have put their own well-being ahead of the lives and welfare of those who live here.

Ballot Questions on Policing

In addition to the national and state level candidates on Philly’s ballots, there were 2 ballot questions on policing in Philadelphia. One was to “constitutionally ban stop and frisk” and the other was to create a police oversight panel. Both passed. (Yay, Philly!) WHYY has some additional details on these ballot questions.

Additional Measures and Next Steps

Prior to the election, the City Council passed a ban on tear gas and rubber bullets. However, this still needs to be signed into law by Mayor Kenney. I’ve included an email I wrote to Mayor Kenney below, if you’d like something to work from.

james.kenney@phila.gov
(215) 686-2181
Twitter @PhillyMayor

Ban police use of “less than lethal” force

Dear Mayor Kenney,

I am writing to ask you to sign into law the ban on police use of “less than lethal” force that was passed by the Philadelphia City Council on October 29th. The citizens of Philadelphia should not be treated as the enemy when they are exercising their rights.

Thank you.

Of note: 3 Councilmembers (David Oh (R, at large), Brian J. O’Neill (R, 10th district), and Bobby Henon (D, 6th district)) voted against the bill.

Another Police Shooting

About two weeks ago, a mentally-ill Black man named Walter Wallace was shot 14 times. According to WHYY, body camera footage shows Wallace was not rushing officers and didn’t have a knife raised at the time they opened fire. There’s a petition calling on the city to to fire the officers who shot Wallace, to ban police from answering mental health calls, and to not provide additional funding to the police (for acquiring tasers).

Finally, here’s a list of resources that are alternatives to calling the police in Philadelphia.

2020 Voting Information for Philadelphia

Pins that say have white stars on red in the top third, the word "Vote" in white in the middle, and white stars on blue in the bottom third.

The 2020 general election is less than 6 weeks away. This post is where I’m collecting information specifically to help Philadelphia voters. Some of this information may apply to other voters in Pennsylvania, but you should check with your local authorities. 

I’ll be updating this post as I get additional information. You can get additional information from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Voting Guide.

Whether you’re a PA voter or not, you can register to vote at Vote.org

If you don’t want to read through this, here are some quick links.

The Census

First, if you haven’t filled out the Census, please do so. The Census is what helps determine how congressional districts are drawn. It’s part of what determines how you’re represented in Congress and who you may be eligible to vote for. It also helps determine how much federal aid a given area gets. 

You can fill out the Census online. The deadline was moved up this year, so you only have until September 30th. 

Important Dates for PA Voters

The following are the state deadlines for voting related activities. However, if you’re planning to vote by mail, please assume you have 2 fewer weeks than listed. I’ve provided links that will allow you to register to vote and request a mail-in or absentee ballot online. 

September 29, 2020 – First day of “early voting” in Philadelphia (See below for details).

October 19, 2020 – the last day to REGISTER before the November election. Pennsylvania residents can register online, but you’ll need your driver’s licence PennDOT ID number. If you’ve already registered, you may want to check your voter registration on or before this date just in case.

October 20, 2020 – I strongly suggest that you send in your mail-in or civilian absentee ballot by this date. 

October 27, 2020 – Technically this is the last day to apply for a mail-in or civilian absentee ballot for Pennsylvanians. If you do this, I strongly recommend that, rather than requesting your ballot online, you go to your local election office

November 3, 2020 – Election day. Your mail in or absentee ballot must be received by this date. (The PA Supreme Court extended the deadline so that ballots must now be postmarked by November 3rd and received by November 6th, but the Republican party is planning to appeal. To be safe, assume your ballet needs to be received by November 3rd.)

Ensuring* Your Mail-In Ballot is Counted

*as much as that’s possible

There are a few important things to keep in mind if you’re using a Mail-In Ballot. Not doing these things could mean your ballot won’t get counted:

  • Your ballot must be received by the deadline (assume it’s November 3rd). For that to happen, you should probably turn it in in-person or mail it by October 20th.
  • Your ballot needs 2 envelopes. There’s an inner secrecy envelope and an outer envelope. Make sure you use both.
  • You must sign the outer ballot envelope.
  • Your signature must match what’s on file with the elections office.

If you’ve already requested your mail-in ballot, you can check your mail-in ballot status online.

Early Voting and Election Offices in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, you can vote early at one of 17 locations: 2 permanent elections offices and 15 temporary satellite offices. The Philadelphia Inquirer has information on their locations, hours and services. A few of the surrounding counties are also opening satellite elections offices, as well.

Here’s a brief list of what you can do at these satellite elections offices:

  • Register to vote (until October 19th)
  • Request, receive, fill out, and submit a mail ballot in one stop (until October 27th)
  • Request a mail ballot to take home and submit later (until October 27th)
  • Drop off a completed mail ballot (until November 3rd)

All 17 elections offices will be open 7 days a week from September 29th to November 3rd. Their hours are:
Monday through Thursday: 11:30 am to 6:30 pm
Friday through Sunday: 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.

Voting in Person

If you’re frustrated by the complications of mail-in ballots, you can vote in person. This year, Philly is using new voting systems. You can watch a video of how those work on the Philadelphia City Commissioners website.

Philadelphia Sample Ballots

I haven’t seen sample ballots yet. I’ll update when I do.

On the USPS

Blue USPS Mailboxes. Image by EraserGirl / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)
EraserGirl / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

It’s time for another political detour, my loyal readers. As you are probably aware, the US Postal Service (USPS) is being sabotaged. This is at least partly because Trump wants to steal the election. However, it also seems to be that the Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has a financial stake in several competitors to the USPS. DeJoy is also a top republican donor.

The following tweet shows a map of where mail sorting capacity has been reduced overlaid with 2016 electoral results.

Here’s what’s being done so far:

So what can you and I do?

If you’ve experienced an issue with your mail, you can fill out this form from Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, who is leading an investigation into mail delays related to the actions take by DeJoy. I think this is also open to people outside of Michigan.

It’s possible to email DeJoy or to the members of the USPS Board of Governers. The Board of Governers does have the ability to fire DeJoy, but they are also Trump appointees, so that may or may not do very much. This tweet thread provides email addresses.

And as always, you can call or email your elected representatives and ask them to tour a USPS facility and to hold DeJoy accountable. If you’re not sure who your elected officials are, this site will tell you who represents you on a local, state, and national level. 

Local Politics

I have to confess, it’s the Black Lives Matter and the Defund the Police movements that have really gotten me to pay attention to my local government. I’ve voted in local elections and had a general idea about who I wanted to support, but I didn’t pay much attention aside from primary and general election times.

And then I learned how much of the city’s budget goes to the police force vs other services. The proposed budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year would have increased the police department’s budget by $14 million, but cut funding for healthcare, social services, libraries, and education.

Philly Police Funding

Last week, 14 out of the 17 city council members signed a letter saying they couldn’t accept the proposed increase to the police budget. I’m pleased about that, but I wanted to know more about the 3 who didn’t oppose the police budget increase and when they could be voted out.

The members who didn’t sign the letter opposing the police budget are David Oh, Brian O’Neill and Bobby Henon.

  • David Oh is a Republican member at large. He was the first Asian American elected to the city council. 
  • Brian O’Neill is a Republican and represents the 10th district. He’s been on the city council since 1980, which means he’s been on the city council longer than I’ve been alive. 
  • Bobby Henon is a Democrat and represents the 6th district. He was indicted in January 2019 for embezzlement and theft by federal officials.

Basics about the Philadelphia City Council

The Philadelphia City Council has 1 member for each of its 10 districts plus 7 members at large. They have 4 year terms, and there are no term limits. Elections for city council members happen in odd years, (when there’s no major national elections). The next one will be 2023 (assuming the world doesn’t end before then).

The party breakdown of the members is:

  • 14 Democrats: 9 districts plus 5 members at large
  • 2 Republicans: 1 district plus 1 member at large
  • 1 Working Families Party: 1 member at large

A map showing all 10 districts is available on the city council website. The Committee of 70 has more detailed maps for each of the 10 districts. Interestingly, districts 6 and 10 are right next to each other. The numbering doesn’t appear to make much sense, but I suspect there are historical reasons behind it.

For the Future

I’ve still got a lot to learn about what my local government does and doesn’t do, but it’s clearly long past time I started.

What about you? How closely do you follow your local politics?

Nira supports Black Lives Matter and thinks you should, too.