Philadelphia and its surrounding counties are set to move to the final reopening phase this Friday, but it’s not a complete return to our old normal. And, we chatted with national politics reporter Jonathan Tamari about how Pennsylvania’s primary elections went and what we might be able to expect in November.
Happy Father’s Day to everyone. I hope you all can safely spend time with family and celebrate.
Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with national politics reporter Jonathan Tamari about Pennsylvania’s primary election and what it could mean for the general election in November.
What were you expecting to see from this election and how did it actually play out?
I threw out any expectations in advance because the primary happened under such extraordinary circumstances: a deadly pandemic combined with historic protests. We knew turnout would be down, we knew there would be slower vote counting. The vote count was, indeed, slow and Republican turnout was significantly lower than in 2016 (a 29% drop), which wasn’t surprising since President Donald Trump had no opposition. What was interesting was that Democratic turnout nearly matched 2016, even though they also didn’t have a real presidential race anymore. That doesn’t decide anything, but it’s a sign of serious interest.
What do the results mean in relation to mail-in voting in Pennsylvania?
In short: Democrats are voting a lot by mail, and Republicans aren’t. Democrats cast more than 1 million mail ballots for president. Republicans cast around 397,000. Voting, of course, counts the same whether you vote by mail or in person, so it might not ultimately make a difference. But if the coronavirus is still a serious problem in November and people are worried about going out, many more Democrats have already voted from home and are now familiar with the process. That could also impact how the campaign plays out because people who vote by mail could start voting weeks before Election Day — so for them, the closing stages of the campaign could be meaningless. Their votes will already literally be sealed.
How does the overall turnout for the primary compare with what might be expected at the general in November? What complications might appear because of that?
It’s very risky to draw direct connections. The parties aren’t directly competing in a primary, and there’s much less media attention. The presidency wasn’t on the line in Pennsylvania’s primary. Turnout will be far higher in November — some people think we could see records — and circumstances can change fast, as we have seen these past few months. So I wouldn’t draw a straight line between the primary and general election. It’s almost certain that Trump supporters show up in much larger numbers in November.
Why did you become a reporter? What is something you wish more people better understood about your job?
I was first drawn to journalism because I always loved to write and in high school, I realized there was a job where I could write all the time and someone would pay me for it. I also quickly realized the excitement of having a front-row seat to history — whether it’s politics, sports, cultural moments — and conveying those events so all our readers can get a feel for the sights, sounds, and impact. And there’s a service aspect. As a politics and government reporter, it’s my job to tell people what their government is up to and to explain policy debates and political maneuvering in ways that give people a more clear understanding of the issues and their public officials. People are busy with other parts of their lives, so my job is to make government and politics digestible, and give them good information so they can make informed decisions.
My wish would be that more people understood that last part. The vast majority of reporters I’ve worked with feel the same way and we work extremely hard to convey accurate and clear information. We’re human so we don’t always get it right, but we go to great lengths to try to be as accurate as we can be against tight deadlines.
Is there anything else you wanted to mention?
These roses are beautiful. Love seeing some nature in the city. Thanks for sharing, @staceyelle!
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We’ve been fretting about our cuts, colors, and weaves from the moment we entered into quarantine. The good news is pretty soon we’ll be able to tend to our hair-care needs, but how safe is it to go to a salon? The risk doesn’t come from getting your hair done, it’s from being close to other people. At the very minimum, everyone should be wearing masks, including you and your stylist. You also shouldn’t go to a salon where the stations are less than six feet apart. Here’s what else you should know about getting your hair done during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Great story, great life. I would love to talk sports with this guy — I can’t imagine everything he’s seen.” — dusty finish, on At age 100, this retired WWII vet lives alone, walks the stairs, and shops for his disabled neighbor.