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Kamala Harris is coming to Philly as Biden makes a push for Black voters

Her first visit to Pennsylvania comes as Joe Biden's campaign is ramping up its efforts to turn out Black voters, who could make a big difference in a pivotal swing swing state.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris speaks to the Florida Memorial University marching band on Sept. 10 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris speaks to the Florida Memorial University marching band on Sept. 10 in Miami Gardens, Fla.Read moreLynne Sladky / AP

To cover how Pennsylvania is shaping the 2020 election, The Philadelphia Inquirer has launched a new email newsletter. Every Wednesday, you’ll get reporting from counties across the state, insight into issues that impact you, fact checks on what candidates are saying, and more. You can sign up to get it in your inbox here. You can also view the web version of this email.

It’s another busy week in Pennsylvania.

President Donald Trump was in Philadelphia last night for a town hall, where he engaged in quite a bit of revisionist history about his coronavirus response. Kamala Harris is making her own Philly stop tomorrow, the same day Joe Biden heads back, again, to his childhood hometown of Scranton for a town hall there.

We’ll talk about how Biden’s campaign is trying to turn out Black voters in bigger numbers than 2016. And we’ll share highlights from our first conversations with voters on The Inquirer’s Election 2020 Roundtable.

Pennsylvania is looking like more of a critical state every day. So follow all our election coverage. And email us at

— Julia Terruso, Andrew Seidman (@JuliaTerruso, @AndrewSeidman,

Harris heads here for Pennsylvania debut

A little over a month after Biden named Harris his running mate, she’s making her first stop in Pennsylvania tomorrow (no word yet on what she’ll be doing in Philly).

Her visit comes as the Biden camp launches a series of ads and messages targeted to Black voters. While Black turnout in 2016 dipped in other key swing-state cities like Milwaukee and Detroit compared to 2012, it was almost even in Philly. But almost even might not be enough for Biden in 2020, when the white working class voters we’ve talked to in northeast and southwest Pennsylvania are only more solidly for Trump.

Biden started airing two new ads in Pennsylvania this week, one featuring a Black woman who heads a community development corporation in Pittsburgh. Top campaign strategists also outlined their national plans for Black voter outreach, saying they’ll pay particular attention to Black men. That could be key in Pennsylvania, where 14% of Black men backed Trump in 2016 — contributing to, as FiveThirtyEight noted, a drop of about seven percentage points in Hillary Clinton’s total share of the Black vote compared to Barack Obama. The other new Pennsylvania ad features a group of Black men in a barber shop discussing the stakes in 2020.

“We have to go earn the vote,” said Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond, Biden’s campaign co-chair. “Nobody is saying we think we’re going to get all of the Black vote because we are the Democratic nominee. We hope to get the overwhelming majority because we earned it, because we’re talking about the things that are important to them. Because we’re not lying to them.”

Harris' campaign trail debut this month has been celebrated by supporters who like her energetic style — and her Converse sneakers. Pennsylvania Democrats were “beaming with pride” when she was picked, and across the Philly region, members of her sorority — the oldest Black female sorority in the country — are raising money.

She’s the first Black woman, the first person of Indian descent, and only the fourth woman to to ever be nominated for national office by a major party.

On Monday night, Harris had a Zoom fundraiser with Clinton and the comedians Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph (Rudolph depicts Harris on Saturday Night Live, while Poehler has played Clinton).

“Some people might think breaking barriers means you start on one side of the barrier and you just show up on the other side of the barrier,” Harris said, reflecting on Clinton’s 2016 campaign."But that’s not what happens... breaking barriers involves breaking things. And when you break things, sometimes you get cut. It’s painful. It’s worth it every single time. But it is not without an extraordinary amount of courage and effort."

Answering your questions about voting

What do I need to know about the machines if I vote in person?

They might be different from what you’ve used in the past. Every voting machine in the state has been replaced in the last two years to leave a paper trail recording every vote, so none of the machines are the same as they were in 2016. Paper-based voting systems are more secure because those records of individual votes can be audited or even hand-recounted. If you’ve voted in person in a recent election, you may have used the new machines.

Do I need ID to vote?

Only if this is your first time voting in that precinct, such as if you have moved to a new neighborhood or are newly registered. Otherwise, you won’t need ID and shouldn’t be asked for it. (If your polling place location changed but you’re still in the same precinct, you don’t need ID.)

Will there be PPE?

Yes. Elections officials are working to provide personal protective equipment to poll workers and voters who may need it. In the primary, depending on the county and polling place, this included masks, gloves, tape for marking the floor for social distancing, face shields, and cleaning supplies.

Read more: Everything you need to know about voting, by mail or in person

Send us more voting questions here

— Jonathan Lai (@Elaijuh)

What we’re paying attention to

Overheard on the campaign trail

“We’re afraid of what we’re seeing. We don’t want our houses burned down.”

—The Rev. David Greer, pastor of the historic Norvelt Union Church, on the civil unrest in American cities, as seen from a small Pennsylvania town founded as a New Deal homestead.

Some signs of GOP support for Biden in the burbs

Last week we introduced you to our Election 2020 Roundtable, a group of 24 Pennsylvania voters we’re convening for a series of open, virtual conversations. The first round of those conversations saw our members grapple in candid and at times emotional ways with some of the issues defining the election.

Something else stood out to us: Republicans who didn’t back Trump in 2016 said Biden’s DNC speech, and his convention generally, made it easier for them to vote for him. Trump allies are hoping that Republicans who didn’t support him last time will be swayed this time by his tax cuts and conservative judicial appointments. At least within the Roundtable, that’s not happening.

“I was impressed by Joe Biden’s speech,” said Scott Young, 51, of Bucks County. “He’s never been a great orator and he delivered a statesman’s speech.”

Drew Jennings, a 47-year-old, self-described “in the middle voter” from Chester County, said the Democratic National Convention “changed my mind a little bit in terms of the direction of the party.”

And Lisa Walton, 55, of Allentown, said she had “a much stronger comfort level” with Biden after his speech.

We’ve been talking to more suburban voters this week, so stay tuned. And read more about the first Roundtable conversations here.

—With Lauren Aguirre

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