When you arrive at your polling place on Tuesday, May 21, chances are you’ll be greeted by few people lustily competing to hand you a “sample ballot.” You’ve probably seen these before: small, rectangular pieces of paper with printed spate of candidates.
The political logic behind these day-of handouts? That voters who haven’t researched the candidates in advance will consider it info from a trusted source and use it to inform choices in the booth. They’re especially popular in what are called “low-information” races, where there hasn’t been a lot of news coverage or information released about candidates before Election Day.
It’s unclear how much impact any one sample ballot has, but taken collectively, they’re a useful documentation of the often unseen forces that try to shape local elections in their favor.
So, we’re asking you to collect them.
Nothing fancy — just snap a photo of any ballot you come across on your phone and send it to us. Email the pic to firstname.lastname@example.org, or post it on social media with the hashtag #PhillyBallots and tag us.
Make sure your photo shows the “paid for by” part on the ballot, if possible. Our hope is to collect as many as possible and do some analysis later.
The types of ballots will be legion. There will be party ballots, union ballots and ward ballots. Within those wards, some autonomous divisions may even put separate slates. Also presenting ballots will be special interest groups and political action committees.
Election code mandates that groups must include who paid for any materials. Will they? Who knows. Send us anything funky that comes across your path.
Then there’s the candidates themselves: Sources tell Billy Penn a few runners for City Council at-large will be pushing their own personalized ballots in some areas. See one? Hit us up.
The Democratic City Committee ballot — which conventional wisdom upholds as the most influential to voters — will be the most common sight across the city. Some Democratic wards may take that ballot and alter the line-up to support an ally over the party’s chosen candidate. Send these as well.
Will any groups ditch Mayor Jim Kenney in favor of State Sen. Anthony Williams? Who will the politically powerful Northwest Coalition be backing for the crowded City Council at-large race? Which judicial candidates make the most ballot appearances?
There’s also the contentious sheriff’s race. The city’s Democratic leadership infamously un-endorsed Sheriff Jewell Williams, whose re-election campaign has been tarred by his multiple sexual harassment cases. With no top-down endorsement, party ward leaders (Williams is one of them) can fill in their own choice among the four Democratic candidates. How many stick with the scandal-plagued incumbent? Those ward ballots will tell us — so send them along.
Think of another way to send us a pic? Go for it. See you on Election Day.