Just a week ago Cobb’s Creek, a neighborhood in West Philadelphia, was the latest hotbed of protests by racial injustice and police brutality that have been lived in America since the summer. There, in the 6100 block of Locust Street, he was shot dead by officers. Walter Wallace Jr, a 27-year-old man armed with a knife and with a mental disorder for whom the family had requested medical assistance. The case reignited tempers and tensed the city, including acts of looting, those that have led to Donald Trump to falsely identify all demonstrations as violent and to speak of anarchy to present himself as the candidate of “law and order.”
This presidential election day, the atmosphere is very different. Just a few blocks from where Wallace Jr. died is Sayre school, the voting center for these neighbors, and its entrance is a real party. There are music, barbecue, hamburgers and free food, volunteers handing out masks and other protection material against the coronavirus.. And people like Delman Wearing, a black man in his sixties who studied in these classrooms decades ago and who on Tuesday voted Joe Biden on his ballot. “Trump has tried to intimidate us but we are not going to stop voting,” he says.
He has also opted for the Democrat “as the lesser of evils” Amani Badie, a 51-year-old neighbor who wears a mask that reads “Black lives matter.” “For me it was important to vote, to exercise my constitutional right because it is one that we did not have for a long time,” he explains. “And I don’t know what will happen today, but I like that I have seen many young people come out and vote.”
Three days to count
In this community this morning of elections there is no fear. Not even when Trump has left open the possibility of not making a peaceful transition if he is defeated, or when there has been speculation that could declare a victory prematurely when not all the votes have been counted, something that in Philadelphia and in the entire state of Pennsylvania it is a possibility because there are three days to count the ballots sent by mail until this Tuesday.
“I am not afraid because I believe in the people of our community,” explains Salaah Muhammed, a 34-year-old activist. “I’m not worried about anything Trump does or might do because it is up to us to inject confidence into the electoral process.” And he himself leads by example. In the afternoon, when you finish your volunteer work at this polling place, you will go to one of the vote-by-mail drop-off points to deposit your ballot.
“America is going to be fine & rdquor;
In other parts of the city, which will also decide in a referendum on four measures that include creating a commission of citizen control of the police or whether to end the practice of “stop and search”, others like Chris, a 28-year-old who was voting for the first time, and was voting for Trump, also said that he was not afraid. “America is going to be fine. The fears have been oversized,” he assured.
But it is true that not everyone speaks with that confidence. Just over an hour after polling stations opened in the city Kathy Nugent, 69, was in line at the Kimmel Cultural Center, also prepared to cast her vote for Biden. And she was happy for the “phenomenal participation”, but also restless. “People are worried about so many things: the coronavirus, jobs, riots … There is fear and anxiety. And it has never been like that, never,” he reflected. “Elections used to be a positive thing, a kind of cleanup committee, but who knows what will happen in the next two days …”
The slow count
Part of what happens will be decided not far from there, in the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, one of the places where this Tuesday the ballots received by mail began to be processed and counted. And work will not be lacking. Across Pennsylvania, more than 2.5 million have voted like this, a figure that is 10 times the 2016 mail-in vote.
Those ballots will be vital in determining who gets the 20 votes in this state’s electoral college that Trump won by a scant 44,000 votes in 2016 and that in this contest has become one of the most watched and contested. It is not for nothing that the two campaigns have spent 54 million dollars here, a figure that only exceeds Florida. And it was not for nothing that Biden passed through Scranton and Philadelphia this Tuesday.
For the possibility that something does not go well in that recount, or for the possibility that Trump does not wait for those ballots that tend to be counted Democrat Jenny, a 28-year-old American-Asian, is preparing. This Tuesday he was polling voters in the Asian community at the gates of the polling station in the Chinatown Chinese Christian Church but it is ready for action organized for this Wednesday, including a march from Independence Hall to the convention center where the recount takes place and direct complaints to local officials “to ensure that all the votes are counted.”