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Voting light, surge expected late

Chaka Fattah watches as his 8-year-old daughter, Cameron, pushes the button for his name in the voting booth as photographers record the event.
Chaka Fattah watches as his 8-year-old daughter, Cameron, pushes the button for his name in the voting booth as photographers record the event.Read moreCLEM MURRAY / Inquirer staff photographer

At Philadelphia schools, churches, libraries, rec centers and apartment buildings, residents have been slogging their way through a lengthy list of candidates and ballot questions.

At some polling places, lines had formed despite a light turnout, as voters waited for others to finish.

“A lot of people seem to be confused by the ballot,” Fred Ryan said at a Northeast firehouse. ”I think it’s the eight ballot questions. Some people seem to be reading them for the first time. It’s taken a few people 10 to 15 minutes to vote.

“The turnout seems to be very light, and it all seems to be 65 and over,“ said Ryan, a poll worker for Democratic mayoral candidate Bob Brady.

At Masterman School, retired businesswoman June Schroeder, 72, looked over a pink sample ballot and remarked about a proposal to borrow $129 million for transit and sanitation.

“Who are they borrowing it from? They’re borrowing it from our future!” she said, pointing to a young poll worker and a baby in a stroller.

At Summit Presbyterian Church in West Mount Airy, one observer said, the early voting was so slow that people were waiting an hour to vote.

Casinos were also on the mind of some frustrated voters, who looked for the unofficial red ballot boxes promised by a drive to let voters determine where gaming halls should go.

At Masterman, a supporter distributed sheets listing about 35 places, such as Jones Middle School and Whitman Library, that have those ballot boxes.

At the polling station at 40th and Walnut Streets, polling workers battled boredom. By 3 p.m., just 20 voters had come in -- off a list of about 1,000.  The station lies smack in the middle of the University of Pennsylvania campus, and many of the students have graduated and left for the summer.

"My arm is tired from writing," poll worker Joan Lasprogata deadpanned.

"Maybe we'll make it to 30.  What do you think?" shot back local Democratic committeewoman Mary Goldman.

The lack of voters didn't seem to bother Knox, who had at least four youths working the station, each paid $100 to hang out outside for the day, drumming up support for their candidate.

"They're paying $100 a pop and no one's voting here.  Why put anybody here?" Goldman wondered aloud.

"The money out on the street is unbelievable today," Goldman said.  "The good news is that it's going to the unemployed instead of just going to pay for television ads."

The polls in Philadelphia opened at 7 a.m., and candidate Michael Nutter was a front-runner as a voter, too.

He walked with his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Olivia, from their home to his polling place, the John Anderson Center on Overbrook Avenue.

People honked, Nutter waved, and he greeted friends along the way.

About 8 a.m., U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah voted in East Falls — and let his 8-year-old daughter, Cameron, push button 57 for her father, a spokesman said. Fattah was also with wife and NBC10-TV anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah and their other daughter, Chandler.

State Rep. Dwight Evans strode into his polling place at the Finley Recreation Center at precisely 8 a.m. Sounding upbeat, he predicted that he would be “the last man standing” so long as voters made their choice on “substance, not symbolism.” Surrounded by reporters and supporters holding posters, he highlighted the support he has gotten from Gov. Rendell, including a last-minute pro-Evans mailing that Rendell paid for over the weekend.

Businessman Tom Knox was accompanied not only by his wife, Linda, but also by their dog, Lily, when he voted at the First Presbyterian Church at 201 S. 21st St.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady had a whole posse of family when he voted at 11 a.m. at a garage on City Avenue. With him were his wife, Debra; son Robert Jr. and daughter-in-law, Maria; granddaughters Serena, 10, and Alex, 13; and the family dog, a black silk Pekingese, Tin Shao Minzhu, whose name means “Sweet Little Democrat” in Chinese.

Sporadic reports suggest that turnout during the day was light.

At Masterman, only 120 of 563 registered Democrats voted by 11:30.

When Al Taubenberger, the lone Republican running for mayor, voted at a Northeast firehouse at 10 a.m., he was the 117th voter out of 662 who were eligible.

At Amos Recreation Center in North Philadelphia, only 20 people had voted as of 10:30 a.m.

Temple student Denny Miller, a first-time voter, said he voted for Knox: “He marketed himself better. I just saw him more.”

At St. Timothy School in the Northeast, as voters were just trickling in around 8 a.m., Mike Lowry, who is running for traffic court judge, said voters might be biding their time:

“I think they’re still undecided and they’re going to take all day to think about it.”

Barb Wilson, 43, who runs a Northeast cleaning business, said an hour later there that she voted for Brady because he was willing to put more police on the street, even if he was unlikely to win. “I like the things he said,” she said. “He seems like a good family man. He doesn’t have a lot of money.” Of Knox, who spent millions on campaign ads, she said, “He had all this money and it’s not like we’re going to get any of it.”

For two voters who were wavering between Nutter and Knox, a deciding factor was trust. Ruth Scavozzi, 43, decided on Knox, saying his wealth would make him less vulnerable to corruption. Retired police officer Bill Edger, 82, decided he just didn’t trust Knox, citing stories accusing Knox of charging people too much for loans and allegedly failing to make good on promises to repay union members.

So he voted for Nutter. “He gave [Mayor Street] a hard time. Nutter seems to be the only who fought against him and went up for what he thought was right, and I admire him for that.”

Dorothy Maminski, 90, was another Knox supporter: “I’m voting for Tom. I know that. He seems more down to earth. His roots seem to be like most of the people I know. He had a tough life. He gives you that appearance that he can do what he says he can do.”

“I changed my mind this morning,” said Ray Nasser, 34. For weeks, he was set on supporting Knox. But when he got inside a Center City voting booth, he couldn’t do it. “All of a sudden, when I got in the booth, I said, ‘You know what, let me do Nutter.’ He is the only one who gave [Mayor] Street a hard time,” he said.

Nasser also was impressed with Nutter’s commericial featuring his daughter - and so were two other voters, who cast ballots at the same location.

Marge Kramer, though, picked Fattah. “I’ve seen him at several forums and I was impressed by his position on homelessness,” she said.

That was the only button she pressed on the entire ballot, she said.

Around midday, “stop and frisk,” Nutter’s anti-crime proposal was on minds at Kenderton Elementary School in Tioga. Robert Young, who is in his 50s, declined to say who got his vote, but he opposed stop-and-frisk. “That ain’t cool,” he said. “That’s too much like Frank Rizzo.”

William Taylor, 48, said, “I don't mind being stopped because I ain’t no criminal. I have a son who’s 20 years old and I worry about him.”

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or

Contributing to this article were Inquirer staff writers Michael Vitez, Vernon Clark, Jennifer Moroz, Michael Matza, Joseph Slobodzian, Marcia Gelbart and Karen Heller.