Turnout for today’s mayoral election is expected to be low, despite its high-profile coverage. Seats for City Council and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania are also open for voters to cast their ballot.
The five candidates vying for mayor are: Democrat Jim Kenney, Republican Melissa Murray Bailey, Socialist Workers Party Osborne Hart and Independents James Foster and Boris Kindij. All 17 City Council seats are on the ballot, with 15 incumbents running for re-election. Three vacancies on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania will be filled by new justices.
“Each of these have different spheres of influence,” said political science professor Michael Hagen. “The Supreme Court elections will have an effect all over the commonwealth, but the Mayor and City Council will have more impact on daily life in Philly.”
Hagen said low turnout in general elections is part of a “vicious cycle” of people feeling like their vote is not worth casting and being unaware an election is happening. Hagen added the presidential election is drawing all the attention from the media.
“They only hype up the president,” said Amal Saber, a junior psychology major. “If it was in my face more, I’d feel obligated to vote.”
Chavely Noval, a junior psychology major, said more could be done on Main Campus to get students involved, like advertising and holding educational meetings. She added issues like the social justice system and education should be the focus in city politics.
“[The city] needs to stop closing schools and fix prisons because it hurts the black community,” Noval said. “The environment of urban neighborhoods needs to be fixed.”
Noval and Saber said they did not know about the elections. They are both registered voters in Pennsylvania.
Hagen said higher turnout is achieved when there’s more personal contact with people “on the fence” about whether they are going to vote. He suggested students organize and “go knocking on doors” to get others involved as well.
“[Temple] should have organizations at the school, like the one for Bernie Sanders,” said Noelle Cress, a freshman advertising major. Cress is registered to vote in Pennsylvania and plans to participate in the elections.
Hagen said the act of voting does not take much time or effort, but many people feel as though it is a waste because they believe their vote doesn’t matter. He added this is particularly evident because this mayoral election is very likely to go to Kenney because he is a Democrat, which several local outlets have reported outnumber registered Republicans seven to one. The Democratic Party has maintained its hold on the mayor’s office since 1952.
“The main reason people even bother to vote is because it feels like a ritual,” Hagen said. “They feel like it’s their duty or their responsibility and they enjoy it.”
Andrew Barron, an undeclared freshman in the College of Liberal Arts who is registered to vote, said he is focusing more on school than keeping up to date on the elections.
“If the information was more easily and more approachable, people would care more,” he said, adding politics was a very “dry” topic because little emphasis is put on it.
Barron added he would be more likely to “go out and show his support” by voting if candidates focused more on what people see in Philadelphia, like homelessness and impoverished neighborhoods.
“I’m really disenchanted with politics,” Cress said. “Politicians are trying to build a positive image, which makes them a lot like celebrities. What you see isn’t always what you get. They might seem really nice and put together on television, but the moment they get backstage, it’s a different story.”
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