Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Election Day Report from Philly #SouthPhillyVotes #CountEveryVote #ProtectEveryVote


Scenes from a day in South Philly, #southphillyvotes. One woman even brought a goat.
Photo by Chana Widawski 


I didn’t really know what to do on election day.

Phone banking the last few days started hit diminishing returns.

Most everyone had already voted or wasn’t picking up.

I’d written hundreds of cards to Georgia and Pennsylvania voters.

Even more phone calls.

Babs was going to election watch and turn out the vote in Philly.

I signed up to be a safety captain in South Philly.

Elizabeth Fiedler’s campaign suggested I go to Marconi (2800 S BROAD ST), where a Columbus statue was a flashpoint all summer, with Proud Boys showing up to fight.

Ken and I arrived in Philly at 715 AM, where a line wrapped around the block, many Trump supporters.

This was certainly not going to be a site for the Proud Boys to menace voters. They were supporting their cause.

On a bright fall day, a half dozen election observers, representatives from political candidates, a few union members were there to make sure everyone was able to vote. Everyone has a right to vote. But, will all the mail in ballots be counted?

All was quiet, but there were a lot of Trump signs here in South Philly.


By 8 AM, a woman showed up, tearing a few of the Trump signs down.

“They can’ t be here,” she says.

A few of us look up the rule, technically, no signs or electioneering to can be within ten feet of the polling place.

There is a sign outside the gate, which is ten feet or so from the door.

So its not clear.

A group starts recovering the signs.

“Get on your bike and mind your business,” says one man to her, a few others moving right up to her face. “Now that’s voter intimidation.”

Ken starts to ask her to calm down and step away.

A few others call the DA’s office for clarity.

“She came out of her mother’s ass, not her vagina,” says another Trump supporter, always warm and eloquent.


A woman in a Philly baseball cap and USA sweatshirt starts screaming.

“You ought to read your Bible.  I’m not here to negotiate with heresies,” says she.

I’m wondering what the bible has to do with it.

We’d all rather have it be quiet day at the polls.

Everyone has a right to the franchise.

A few Trump voters drive by honking.

A cop comes to make sure this is not voter intimidation, questioning everyone.

He’s not sure about the ten foot rule.

The Trump supporters are fired up now.

“Why call them?” says one man in a Trump sweatshirt. “But they don’t when they are wrecking our stores.  Fucking animals.”

I’m thinking about the training the night before on de-escalation.  Since Trump signaled to the Proud Boys to “stand by” during the first debate everyone has been concerned about their presence.

We’d seen them at the Supreme Court and the streets of Brooklyn menacing voters.

We know we get more with sugar than salt.

Fighting with them only plays into their game.

“I’m for more singing and dancing,” says a man at the safety captain training the night before.

Me too.

Everyone wants a fair and safe election.

The fighting over the last four years has taken a toll on everyone, the erosion of Trust, of goodwill, the losses from COVID, police violence, kids in cages on the border.

“We’re now a week since the loss of Walter Wallace,” says one of the men at the training, referring to the death of a Black man at the hands of the police the week prior.  “Sometimes its like groundhog day, with us having to march after loss after loss after loss of Black men at the hands of the police.”

Our role as safety captains is to fight voter suppression in Black and brown communities, to minimize feelings of risk.

Word on the streets is Trump is targeting Philly for voter suppression.

Everyone knows Pennsylvania is a must win for the president.

If he can’t win the votes, he can suppress them.

We want to be a warm and friendly presence.

We all have a right to be here.

Can we make voting fun and joyous?

That’s our job.

Voters can still drop off votes on election day.

They can vote provisionally.

But it is easier to drop off ballot than to relinquish absentee ballots and vote right there.

Call the DA if there is violence.

Love conquers hate, says one of the trainers.

Joy is how we will win.

Radical Joy.

And dancing.

Have fun.

Ground yourself  in it say the trainers.


Our morning poll watching crew is tight, friendly and chatty.

One woman brings a goat with her to vote.

Across Philly, people are canvasing, playing music; bands are in the streets.

At Marconi, they finally bring a few more signs for Biden Harris to counterbalance the Trump signs.

We have to pull another Trump sign from the inside of the polling station.

The state rep for the district is solid blue.

All morning we chat about the Trump years, the threats, the challenges.

“It was the Trump supporters who said we were going to tear down the statue,” says one of the poll watchers.  “That was never our intention. But they came here all summer to fight.”

Its hard for anyone to feel optimistic after the 2016 debacle.

But the voting feels fair. 
And the lines are short.

The vegan Philly Cheese Steak is delicious.

Despite a few Trumpers carrying firearms, it still feels calm here.

Voting numbers are way up, but we know Trump lawyers want to throw out absentee ballots, like Florida.   All day, I am having flashbacks to dangling chads from 2000 and the Florida recount that the Supreme Court ended, siding with the previous president’s son. The specter of 2000 when the supreme court rules lingers in the air.

By 2004 incumbency saved the president and he added supreme court judges to the conservative majority.

No one wants this to get to the courts.

Let’s count every vote.

But perhaps, things might change.

But the fight is going to be real.

And everyone knows it.

But even if Biden gets elected, he has to clean up another mess, just like Obama did in 2008, if.

The Trump years have been hard on many of us.

But we have to keep going.

“Fuck it, we’re in the struggle” says Ken.

“Fuck it.”


By the end of election night, the president is already absurdly declaring victory.

Don’t mourn, organize.


And then Protect the Results.



Andrea Vásquez



Dear Members,


Tomorrow is election day.


The PSC urges each of you to vote and, of course, we respect each member’s individual right to decide whom to vote for. As a union, we believe this is the most important election in generations. The PSC leadership has joined unions and progressive groups across the state in urging members to vote for the Biden/Harris ticket on the Working Families Party ballot line. We believe a vote for Biden/Harris on the WFP line is the best choice in this election for working people, unions and our students.


Over the past year, this country has seen increased voter suppression and obstruction and attempts to undermine the legitimacy of mail-in ballots and the election itself. These attacks on our democracy will continue through election day and may include acts of violence and intimidation in addition to the expected legal maneuverings. Incredibly, we may also see a refusal to count millions of legitimate votes that have already been cast across the country.


In response to this existential threat to our rights as citizens, labor unions and others have made plans to come out onto the streets in the days after the election, in cities and towns everywhere. From small community organizations to the AFL-CIO, millions are united around the common goal of counting every vote, defending the democratic election and ensuring a peaceful transition of power. The effort starts with election day voting but—unless Biden has a clear and decisive victory by Wednesday— it may continue for days, weeks, or even into next year: fighting to count every vote, defending against subversion of election results, and defending an orderly transition until the January 20th inauguration. The future is on the line. We need millions on the streets across the country in repeated demonstrations until there is electoral justice.


Here are the groups the PSC is a part of and here is how you can participate. Our national union, the American Federation of Teachers, is working intensely with a broad coalition of groups and interests on a plan to protect the election. You will be receiving updates from the AFT about mass mobilizations in the days immediately after the vote. The PSC is also working with Protect the Results (PTR) and Labor Action to Defend Democracy (LADD), groups that are organizing nationally alongside the big national unions. As in any fast-developing coalition effort, there is overlap between actions.  PTR is planning demonstrations in New York City, and AFT and LADD are focused on Saturday, the 7th. The key goal for all is getting masses of people ON THE STREETS in the days following the election. Lawyers and politicians will play key roles, but nothing will speak louder than masses of people demonstrating for justice.


Protect the Results

Wednesday, Nov. 4th  4:00 New York Public Library, march downtown

PSC will meet at 3:45 on Fifth Ave. and 41st St.


March to “Count Every Damn Vote”

Saturday, Nov. 7th   1:00 Columbus Circle, march downtown

PSC will meet at 12:30 at Lincoln Center, Columbus Ave. between 64th and 65th St.


I understand that not everyone is able to attend an outdoor demonstration but, for those who can, I hope you will make every effort to join with other PSC members at this historic moment. Our presence in every town and city in the U.S. is at least as important as our vote.


In solidarity,


Andrea Vásquez

PSC First Vice President

As usual, Ken Schles took the best photos of the day. 


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