Unofficial figures from Tuesday's election indicate the voter turnout in Philadelphia was at least 11.4 percent, light by any measure but better than the turnout in the spring primary and higher than some predicted, given the low-profile offices and non-competitive races on the city's ballots.
The city commissioners' office said they had counted 115,607 votes from machines and another 1,369 additional paper ballots, with the prospect of additional military ballots trickling in from overseas over the next few days. Compared to the city's 1,024,323 registered voters, that means 11.4 percent of the city's eligible voters, about one of every nine, bothered to cast their ballots.
The bald figures overstate voter apathy, at least a bit. The official list of registered voters includes thousands of people who have died or moved away from city. Federal laws on voter registration keep some names on the voter rolls for up to five years after people have stopped voting.
But other factors involve the election itself: the top local races, for district attorney and city controller, were dominated by Democratic incumbents with better name recognition and no major blemishes in their public records or campaigns. And the Democrats' 6-to-1 edge in voter registration makes it close to impossible for any Republican candidate, no matter how qualified, to win a citywide election. Apart from the state Superior Court race at the top of the ticket, there was nothing on the ballot close enough for a voter to feel his vote would make a difference.