The polls were chilly, wet, and lonely Tuesday as few Philadelphians decided that races for mayor, Council, and other city posts were interesting enough to lure them to the voting booth.
"It's as slow as cold molasses here today," Election Judge K. Helena Davis said inside the fire station at Chelten Avenue and Baynton Street in Germantown. "To a point where some of the poll workers already left. There is not any excitement here."
Reviewing the turnout about 5 p.m., Ellen Mattleman Kaplan, vice president of the watchdog group Committee of Seventy, called the turnout "anemic" and "pathetic."
She pointed to the First Council District, where four Democrats were vying to replace Frank DiCicco, who is retiring.
In Division Six of Ward 39 in DiCicco's district, only 170 of 506 registered voters had showed up at the polls as of 6 p.m.
Contested mayoral races bring out voters, Mattleman Kaplan said, and even though there was a contest between Mayor Nutter and T. Milton Street Sr., "I think most people thought Nutter would beat Milton no matter what, so they didn't come out."
She said Tuesday's turnout was typical of a midterm race where an incumbent mayor doesn't face serious opposition.
By sitting out the mayor's race, she said, voters also missed a real chance to change the makeup and direction of City Council, which had five incumbents retiring.
"I don't think they understood the significance of the Council race," she said.
About one million voters are registered in the city.
"I don't know why these people don't get out to vote," said U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, who chairs the city's Democratic City Committee. "The ticket was so vast. They could have come out for somebody." Then, he said, people complain about the politicians they have. "If they don't vote, they don't count."
Even so, Brady said he was pleased with the results - that his at-large endorsed candidates won, along with seven out of 10 Common Pleas Court judge candidates.
"I'm extremely proud of our ward leaders," he said. "We've still got the only machine in the country."
Many election workers blamed the rain and the lack of exciting races for the low turnout.
Gloria Gregory, 81, a geriatric counselor who has served as an election judge in the 10th District, Division 8, for 27 years, said she was not optimistic: "We're going to have a very, very, very pitiful census today."
Only 23 voters had come out by mid-morning, a minuscule percentage of the 582 registered.
"It's the same old same old," Gregory said. "The politicians overlook us in West Oak Lane. Voters figure, what's the use? We only see you at the time of the election."
Gregory noted that sidewalks have not been repaired while neighboring areas have been revitalized and said, "If I wasn't a dedicated public servant, I wouldn't be here myself."
Luis Martinez, 51, said civic pride led him to vote Tuesday evening at his polling place at Midtown Church's teen lounge near Seventh and Norris Streets. "I'm a citizen," said Martinez, on his way to visit his sister before church, "and I like to do my civic duty."
Several Center City poll workers attributed the sparse voter turnout to the high number of students who live in the area - but aren't voting in this election.
"They've graduated or are finishing up final projects," said Lois Durso, an election board worker in the 29th Division of Center City's Fifth Ward. Besides, she said, "this is not an election that is exciting students - they are not interested in who becomes judge of Common Pleas Court."
At her polling place in the William Way Center, a mere eight voters out of 570 registered had showed up by 3:30 p.m.
A few blocks away, at Pine Street Pizza, polling booths were a bit busier, with 75 ballots cast by mid-afternoon. The restaurant, which is in the Seventh Division of the Fifth Ward, has a total of 764 registered voters. In the 2007 mayoral primary, 230 voters came out to vote there.
At Salon Chelsea Rae in Northeast Philadelphia's Mayfair section, Election Judge Christine Davidson said turnout had been a little higher than expected - maybe a hair more than the last primary. Shortly before 3 p.m., 62 people had voted, which she believed was more than the number who had visited the beauty parlor/ polling place in the last primary.
Of course, some voters you can't keep away, no matter how trite or unexciting an election.
"I haven't missed an election vote in 36 years, primary or general," said Jerome Balter, a 90-year-old former engineer who said he once ran for Congress from Rochester, N.Y.