Some students say the city could better engage student voices.
Voters will take to the Philadelphia’s 1,200 polling places today, Nov. 8, to participate in its general election. But not a single polling place sits on Main Campus, where thousands of potential student-voters are located.
“If the polling place moves, there needs to be many public hearings and many documents filed,” said Gary Ferris, who works in the Office of Voter Registration at the City Commissioner Office. “When we try and move things the people get upset.”
According to the nonprofit Committee of Seventy, a polling site can be in any building that comes to agreement with the City Commissioner.
The city is implementing approximately 30 polling places in the three wards closest to Main Campus, but some students, like junior entrepreneurship major Alan Malone, said having an on-campus polling site would attract more student participation.
“I think it would be easier if polls were on campus, that way we don’t have to go anywhere,” Malone said.
Some of the city’s polling places include a funeral home in the Southwest, a hoagie shop in the Northeast and one man’s garage in Germantown.
Each election, city officials ask if these usual places would allow some space for the city to wheel in a few of its blue-curtained election booths.
But Temple University College Republicans President Erik Jacobs said moving a polling site to Main Campus would be inconvenient for the residents of North Philadelphia.
“I don’t think polls on campus would promote student voting,” Jacobs said. “Most students normally don’t vote anyway.”
David Lopez, president of the Temple College Democrats, agreed that a polling place on campus wouldn’t initially make a difference, but said with time, the presence eventually will “definitely be beneficial.”
“You can say that students shouldn’t vote because it’s not their place, but if more students were engaged in local politics, there would be a potential for change,” political science professor Erin Meagher said. “Voting is a huge way to bring funding to North Philadelphia, which could make students’ lives safer.”
For most Temple students, North Philadelphia is not their hometown, but many call it home during the academic year.
“People don’t take local elections as seriously as they should,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs added that he finds local government representatives to be very accessible.
The College Democrats have recently organized a voter registration drive, which registered 357 students in two days. The student organization has registered 600 students this semester alone, with a goal of 1,500 for the school year.
Meanwhile, College Republicans are “trying to register as many republicans as possible,” Jacobs said, by placing tables around Main Campus.
A registered voter could be going to any of the 30 polling sites in the three neighboring wards of Main Campus however. The Norris Homes Community Center, located at 1915 N. 11th St., is the closest polling site to Main Campus.
If a voter has any problems finding a polling place or questions related to the city’s elections, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE or contact the Committee of Seventy.
Emma Purcell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matthew Petrillo contributed to this report.