I Changed My Party Registration Yesterday So I Can Finally Vote for Mayor

Thousands of registration forms came in to the Philadelphia Board of Elections yesterday, the last day you could register for the May 19th primary.

I’ve never really voted for mayor in the city of Philadelphia.

I’ve always followed the mayor’s race. I remember gambling with a friend on who would win the 1991 mayoral contest. Frank Rizzo died; I won by default. (I didn’t collect the debt.) I followed the mayor’s race as a 16-year-old in 1999, but I was too young to vote. My main memory is disliking Marty Weinberg for hiring someone to drive a truck around our Northeast Philly neighborhood with a recording playing, “Marty Weinberg! Marty Weinberg! Marty Weinberg!” I won a bet against a history teacher when he picked John White Jr. and I picked John Street. Although I wasn’t of voting age, I was a successful mayoral gambler in the limited sample size.

But I continued to watch as an adult. Technically, though, I have voted for mayor.

In 2003 — after writing a lukewarm op-ed for John Street for my college newspaper — I voted for John Staggs, a socialist meatpacker. In 2007 I voted for Staggs again, who finished third for the second consecutive race. Staggs didn’t run in 2011, and I seem to remember voting for Michael Nutter. But based on my track record, it was probably independent candidate Wally “Diop” Rahman.

The real action, though, takes place in the Democratic primary. The 1999 race I gambled on was a Democratic primary, even though the actual general election was decided by just a few thousand votes. By the time the 2003 race was close, polls showed Street well up on Sam Katz; Street won by 17 percentage points. The 2007 and 2011 mayoral races featured the Democratic candidate capturing more than 75 percent of the vote.

Yes, I have been registered with a third party or not affiliated in Pennsylvania most of my life. (I registered Green when I turned 18 but have been mostly not affiliated with any party since.) I don’t have much of an interest in electoral politics, so I figured it didn’t matter if I sat out the mayor’s races. But, this year, I figured I’d switch my party registration to vote in the primary. I switched to Democrat previously to intentionally cancel out Dom Giordano’s vote for Hillary Clinton in 2008. I could do it again.

Unfortunately, my attempts at service journalism were thwarted this year because, well, I forgot about it — until remembering yesterday was the very last day one could register to vote for the May 19th primary. But it was amazing how easy it was. (You’ll be happy to know for next time!) Previously, I’d just changed my registration by mail. I’d go to the state liquor store to find a form and mail it it.

Yesterday I went for a more direct approach. Simply by going to Room 142 — the Philadelphia County Board of Elections — you can fill out and hand in your voter registration form at the same time. I handed in mine at around 2:30 p.m. yesterday; a worker said the office had collected about 3,000 new voter registration forms so far yesterday, the final day to register.

It’s incredibly easy to change your registration at City Hall. Despite the hefty load of new registrations coming in, I didn’t have to wait in line. If you want to be a Democrat for a few months to vote in the primary election every four years, Philadelphia makes it easy.

Of course, we’ll see on election day if it went through. Maybe I’ll just be voting for ballot questions on May 19th.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.