ABOVE PHOTO: Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendel
The combination of a potential SEPTA strike, and apathetic voters thinking that the 2016 Presidential Election is already won, is making a lot of people who watch voter turnout nervous.
By Denise Clay
During Thursday’s City Council session, a resolution was passed that called on SEPTA and Transport Workers Union Local 234 to come to an agreement on a new contract as soon as possible.
While there are a lot of reasons why Philadelphians want things resolved before TWU Local 234 makes good on its threat to bring the city to a standstill due to a transit strike, one reason stands out.
That reason? Election Day. The presidential contest between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump gets handed to the voters to decide on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
If it’s hard for people to get to work, it’s going to be even harder for them to get to the polls, Council President Darrell Clarke said.
“It will have a significant impact on the city,” Clarke said. “It would present a real problem to residents who either vote before they go to work or when they’re coming home from work. A strike would seriously impact turnout.”
On Oct. 16, TWU Local 234 voted to take to the streets on Nov. 1 if an agreement with SEPTA couldn’t be reached. The strike would impact people who use city-based transit to get to work meaning that city buses, trolleys, the Market/Frankford Line, and the Broad Street Line. Regional rails, Paratransit, and suburban bus service won’t be affected.
Because this election is considered by some to be one of the most important in recent history, residents are nervous. While Uber has pledged to give voters a free ride to the polls on Election Day, it’s not going to be enough to get 800,000 people to the polls, Clarke said.
“Pennsylvania is a swing state,” Michael Robinson said during the Council’s public comment session. “Couldn’t they wait a week to do this? This election is far too important.”
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell agrees.
While the current polls have Clinton beating Trump in several battleground states, including Pennsylvania, the margins are tightening. The once comfortable 9-point lead that Clinton enjoyed over Trump just last week is now down to 4 points, Rendell said.
This means that Pennsylvania giving its 20 Electoral College votes to the Republicans for the first time since 1988 isn’t out of the realm of possibility, Rendell said.
“In the words of Yogi Berra, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over,” he said. “If we fall prey to the story that it’s over in Pennsylvania, we may end up losing,” said Rendell, a Clinton supporter. “[Former Mayor of Philadelphia] Frank Rizzo always polled three or four points lower than the vote he got because people were afraid to admit they were voting for him. There’s a hidden Trump vote, and it makes me very concerned.”
So the former Governor is taking it to the streets. From now until Election Day, Rendell is going to be taking the Philadelphia media market by storm. From “Get Out The Vote” rallies to church visits, he’s going to be campaigning for his chosen candidate.
In 2008, Barack Obama took Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral votes by beating Sen. John McCain by 11.5 percent. But in 2012, he only beat Mitt Romney by 5.
Because Trump is only down by 4 points to Clinton, meaning that the trend of White, working class Democrats voting Republican in Pennsylvania might be continuing, every vote in the Philadelphia area — the most populous part of the Commonwealth — counts, Rendell said.
Especially since Trump has told Republicans around the Commonwealth that they should assume that Philadelphians are practicing voter malfeasance.
“Everyone has to get out and vote,” he said. “It’s too important to take chances or to sit at home. Even if I knew [Clinton] would carry the state, I would still urge people to vote because the bigger the margin of victory, the less likely it is that the election will be questioned.”
Rendell will begin his “Get Out The Vote” tour with stops at Sharon Baptist Church and Triumph Baptist Church on Sunday morning, he said. Also, don’t be surprised if you see him at your subway stop, your corner store or anywhere else where he can talk with people about the importance of getting to the polls on Election Day.
It’s just that important to him.
“I am genuinely worried,” Rendell said. “I’m not crying wolf here. The stakes are high and I think that Trump will tear the country apart if he’s president. We can’t take any chances.”
Right now, local officials, most notably Congressman Bob Brady and State Rep. Dwight Evans, are trying to bring SEPTA and TWU Local 234 together to resolve the impasse and avert a strike.
But should it happen, go to SEPTA.org for contingency plan information. For more information on taking Uber to the polls, go to VoterDrive.us.
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