A NOTE FROM WARD LEADER NIKIL SAVAL
A lot can happen in a year. In May 2018, more than 40 new Democratic committee people were elected to office in the Second Ward; a month later, the Ward was reorganized under new leadership. We had run on promises of transparency and openness, and a commitment to putting progressive values at the heart of the Democratic Party. We had run, too, with the knowledge that Donald Trump had stolen our state, and a conviction to never let anything like that happen again. That November, in the general election to re-elect Tom Wolf as Governor, committee people and their volunteers knocked on more than 10,000 doors and helped turn the Second Ward into one of the highest voter turnout wards in the city (sixth highest of 66 wards)—when in the previous general election in 2016, it hadn’t even been on the map.
In the Democratic primary this year, when nearly every major city office was up for election, we held an open endorsement process for the first time in the history of the Second Ward. To educate ourselves, we held live-streamed candidate forums for sheriff, commissioner, and council-at-large. To attack the perennial issue of low information on judicial candidates, we formed a special judicial committee that reviewed writing samples and CVs, and interviewed every judicial candidate who sought our endorsement. At our ward meeting, we debated the merits and faults of each of the candidates for city offices, and heard the recommendations of the judicial committee before we voted as committee people to make endorsements. It was a fair and open process, and included the unanimous adoption of the judicial slate recommended by our judicial committee.
Nikil Saval, Ward Leader
Photo credit: Katrina Ohstrom
We then produced a four-page color voter guide explaining our processes and the rationale behind all our endorsements, and proceeded to knock on thousands of doors in order to get out the vote. We carried most of our endorsed slate in our ward, and once again had one of the highest turnouts of any ward in the city. This has made our engaged, volunteer-driven operation a force to be reckoned with.
Not only is our work unprecedented in our neighborhood, it is unequaled in the city. Philadelphians once thought the ward system was the pinnacle of corrupt machine politics. We’ve turned our ward into a model of how our torn civic fabric can be mended and strengthened, and how local politics can be revitalized. We became committee people because we wanted to give hope at the very least to ourselves. With the hundreds of volunteers and neighbors we’ve drawn out through our ward, we might more proudly say we’ve given it to others as well.
Political campaigns come and go, but the Second Ward stays. And we root ourselves in our neighborhoods in other ways, too. Our committee people have been involved in turning out residents to zoning meetings, helping with Back-to-School-Drives, giving out Thanksgiving Turkeys and Christmas presents at the Hawthorne Recreation Centers and Courtyard Apartments. (Full Disclosure: I was Santa Claus at the Courtyard’s Christmas in 2018.)
Reconstructing our democracy is no small matter, but it starts with the actions of individuals; it starts with meeting people where they’re at: their doorsteps. There’s more in these pages about the upcoming general election and new polling locations.
TRY OUT THE NEW VOTING MACHINES — BY VOTING ON NOVEMBER 5
We have new voting machines. You may have been following the controversy over how they were selected, and the efforts to overturn that decision, but it’s important to note they will definitely be used in the November 5th election. If you weren’t already excited about casting your votes for important progressive candidates, then hopefully the prospect of learning a new machine before a presidential election year will have you running to your polling place.
A few things to know:
Check-in will remain the same. A new, electronic pollbook system was slated for use but didn’t work out. So you’ll sign in to vote as you always have, by approaching the poll worker who will find your name and have you sign in to the large pollbook.
After you’ve checked in, you’ll be given a long paper card to feed into the machine when you enter the booth. Once the card has been inserted, you’ll be able to start voting on a large touch screen. You can use the buttons on the top right of the screen to make the screen brighter or darker, alter text size, or toggle between English and Spanish.
As with our old machines, you can make a straight party vote or choose candidates individually.
Once you are happy with the slate you’ve chosen, your card, now printed with your selections, will reappear in a window to the right of the screen. You will have the opportunity to reject it if you made a mistake.
Check and correct your ballot on the screen before this point. You can and should “spoil” your printed ballot if you see a mistake. If that happens, poll workers will enter the booth, remove that spoiled ballot and give you the opportunity to vote again…by heading to the back of the line. For this election, that’s unlikely to be a big deal. For the 2020 elections, this could be very time-consuming so, if for no other reason, you should vote to acclimate yourself to the new machines. Just make sure that you’re checking out the screen and correcting any issues before you finalize your vote, and this won’t be an issue.
By Amanda Feifer, Committee Person, Div. 11
Chair, Election Committee, Second Ward Democrats
DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES FOR THE
PENNSYLVANIA SUPERIOR COURT
is a veteran lawyer who has spent her entire career representing workers and trade unions.
Judge Dan McCaffery
was the only highly recommended candidate from the state bar association.
TURN THE SUPERIOR COURT BLUE
Vote for Democrats Amanda Green-Hawkins and Dan McCaffery on Nov 5
In the upcoming election, most of the local focus will be on the municipal races – but there is an important statewide race on the ballot as well. Democrats Amanda Green-Hawkins and Judge Dan McCaffery are running for judgeships on the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and it is critically important that we vote them into office on November 5.
The Superior Court plays an important role in the way laws are enforced and interpreted throughout the Commonwealth. As one of Pennsylvania’s three appellate courts, its written precedential opinions are binding law throughout Pennsylvania. In just the past several months, it has issued decisions regarding the state consumer protection law, sentencing reform, and tax laws affecting millions of Pennsylvanians. As the busiest appellate court in the United States, it hears more than 8,000 appeals per year.
The composition of the Court matters. With the current makeup of seven Republicans, six Democrats, and two vacancies, this election presents an opportunity to flip the Court to a Democrat majority. This could lead to opinions granting stronger protections for consumers, expanded rights for workers, and greenlighting progressive tax policies.
We needn’t look too far back to see how much courts matter. Just recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the redrawing of the state’s Congressional districts after finding the old gerrymandered maps violated the state constitution. This decision would not have been possible without the election, in 2015, of three new Democrats to the Court, giving them a 5-2 majority. But most cases don’t reach the Supreme Court – instead, they end in an appeal at the Superior Court.
By George Donnelly, Committee Person Div. 13
Assistant Treasurer, Second Ward Democrats
COULD A THIRD PARTY CANDIDATE WIN A SEAT ON COUNCIL?
There are seven independent or third party candidates running for one of Philadelphia’s seven At-Large seats. With the near certain outcome that the five winners in the Democratic Party will win five of the seven seats, local media coverage of this race has focused largely on the interesting possibility that one (or two) of these independent or third party candidates could receive more votes than the leading Republican (or both of them), which would result in the Republicans losing one (or both) of the two seats they have held since 1952 – a dramatic shift in the balance of power in City Council.
Here’s how this works: the Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter created seven At-Large seats, but only allows political parties to nominate five candidates, and only allows voters to cast five votes. With the enormous registration advantage Democrats hold in the city, this has meant in practice five elected Democrats and two elected Republicans to At-Large seats since the charter was enacted. Recently though, independent voter registrations are up, Republican registrations are down, and the vote totals have been trending every four years toward the historic possibility of an independent or third party candidate winning one of these seats.
There are essentially three paths to victory for one of these candidates: enough independent voters show up and massively support one or two candidates; Republicans perform incredibly poorly (which is unlikely given their stable base); or a significant number of registered Democratic voters join with independents and cast a vote for a third party candidate in lieu of one of the five Democratic nominees. In 2015, the Democrat with the lowest vote total was elected with over 137,000 votes while the Republican with the highest vote total was elected with less than 35,000.
This could be the year of the tipping point: some third party candidates join the race with existing networks, a knowledge of canvassing and organizing, and endorsements from progressive labor organizations, neighborhood groups, and elected Democratic leaders. A victory for any of these progressive third party candidates could lead to a deciding vote on ending the tax abatement, increasing school funding, introducing Council term limits, and other reforms that have been introduced by Democratic Councilmembers.
By Chris Shelley,
Committee Person Div. 6
2019 AT-LARGE CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES
Joe Cox / Endorsed by Philly for Change, Our Revolution PA, and NORML South Philly
Sherrie Cohen / Endorsed by Neighborhood Networks,AFSCME District DC47, and PASNAP
Maj Toure / Endorsed by Gun Owners of America
TERM LIMITS PHILADELPHIA PARTY
WORKING FAMILIES PARTY
Kendra Brooks / Endorsed by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and City Councilwoman Helen Gym
Both WFP candidates are endorsed by State Senator Art Haywood, State Representatives Chris Rabb, Elizabeth Fiedler, Malcolm Kenyatta, Movita Johnson-Harrell, and Brian Sims, Unite Here, AFSCME District 1199C, AFSCME DC47, SEIU 32BJ, BMWED-IBT, PASNAP, Neighborhood Networks, Reclaim Philadelphia, 215 People’s Alliance, Conservation Voters of PA, Sunrise Movement Philadelphia, and others
CITY COMMISSIONERS REDRAW ELECTORAL DIVISIONS IN QUEEN VILLAGE
The City Commissioner’s office notified the 2nd Ward this summer that it was redrawing the boundary lines for divisions 15, 16, 25, 26 and 27 and creating two new divisions, Division 28 and Division 29. All these divisions fall within Queen Village. (You may have seen the multipage announcements stapled to telephone poles throughout the neighborhood mid-summer.)
The City Commissioner’s office oversees all elections and voter registration in the city. When the number of registered voters in any one division exceeds a threshold of roughly 2,000 voters, the Commissioners create new divisions. This is a normal process that happens regularly in places that experience rapid population growth. Both the 5th Ward (Society Hill/Old City/Northern Liberties) and the 8th Ward (Center City), for example, also had divisions added this election cycle.
The City Commissioner’s office plans to mail registered voters affected by these changes a notification of their division and polling place shortly before the election. To verify your division and find out where your polling place is, check the City Commissioner’s website at tinyurl.com/2ndwardpolls or contact the Philadelphia Voter Registration Office at 215-686-1590.
By Colleen Puckett, Committee Person Div. 29
Third Vice Chair, Second Ward Democrats