Northeast Registration Drive Draws Minimal Crowd

With the election a mere six weeks away, just six people registered to vote over the course of a two-hour registration drive at KleinLife in Northeast Philadelphia.

With the election a mere six weeks away, just six people registered to vote on Sept. 21 over the course of a two-hour registration drive at KleinLife in Northeast Philadelphia.
“That’s good,” said Bobbi Kraft, representing Shalom Tamid Hadassah, which sponsored the event.
That’s good, relatively speaking, because only four signed up on Sept. 7, the first of three registration events prior to the Oct. 13 deadline.
It’s hard to say what it all means and whether that favors any particular candidate.
But there seemed to be some kind of disconnect going on between the men and women walking by the table, and the three volunteers doing their best to get them to exercise their inalienable right to cast their ballots.
“Are you registered to vote?” they asked each passerby.
The responses varied from “no,” as that person continued to walk by, ignoring them as if they were a bill collector or someone trying to sell them swampland in Florida, to “I’m not interested,” to complete silence. And then there was the woman who answered cryptically, “I’m good,” then refused to explain what that meant.
“I’d say by now a lot of them are registered,” said Kraft, who was joined at the table by her friend Gloria Gelman and by Mona Cohen, whose husband, Mark Cohen, will be leaving the Pennsylvania legislature on Nov. 30 after 42 years. “Some say they’re citizens, but don’t want to vote. I don’t know why.
“Then there are some who don’t answer us and just sort of smile.”
Considering there’s a large Russian segment in the community, as well as a growing Korean population, part of the problem may be a simple lack of communication.
A number of people who were approached said, “I don’t speak English,” which is irrelevant when it comes to voter registration. The only things that matter are being at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen.
None of the signup forms were in Russian, nor was there an interpreter at the table who could have explained the process to them.
KleinLife Program Director Shelley Geltzer said she doesn’t have the manpower to spare an interpreter. She also stressed that, to the best of her knowledge, most had already registered.
“We have a lot of people who are immigrants or just moved into the neighborhood,” said Sue Aistrop, director of RSVP Philadelphia, which coordinates volunteers to work with those 55 and over. “People need their voices heard at this point.
“We wanted to make sure [that] of the thousands of people who walk through our doors on a weekly basis, everybody’s had the opportunity to register.”
Joe Weaver of Northeast Philadelphia was one of the few who did.
“I’ve been putting this off for so long, but I wanted to make sure I was registered for this upcoming election,” said Weaver, who admitted it’s been “at least 10 years” since he last voted. “It probably won’t make much of a difference, but I’m going to put my 2 cents in.
“We take so many things for granted in this country. But when I look at the world, I wouldn’t change my spot with anyone. So I’ll put my 2 cents in and see if things get any better.”
In contrast, Nov. 8 will be a first for Barbara Wachowski.
“I come from Poland, and this is my first time voting,” she said. “I’m not political, but I need to vote.”
Those who aren’t registered will get one more chance at KleinLife on Oct. 5 from 10 a.m. to noon.
Ironically, a few people came out to the table to sign up moments after someone from the Russian community explained what was happening during a lunch break.
By then it was too late. The women who’d been there the previous two hours were gone.
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