PHILADELPHIA – At a university sports arena in the heart of North Philadelphia, 67-year-old Sheila McCoy voted 34 days prior to Election Day. And she didn’t vote for President Donald Trump.
This board of elections “satellite office” at the Temple University’s Liacouras Center is now the stuff of national intrigue. At Tuesday’s debate, Trump said the city had denied access to the facility for his poll watchers.
A day later, Trump’s campaign threatened a lawsuit if it wasn’t granted access to the locations.
“The entire debacle that played out in Philadelphia should concern everyone who promotes election integrity,” campaign attorney Linda Kern wrote in a letter to Philadelphia commissioners. “Philadelphians deserve better.”
In the space of two hours Wednesday, about four people entered the satellite election office to apply for mail-in ballots. No signs are posted outside the building to indicate that it is a satellite election office, and most who approached the Liacouras Center were unsure how to gain access to the building. (Many of the doors were locked.)
For those who panned the labyrinth, a dozen poll workers sat idle at folding tables behind Plexiglass with election materials in hand.
“Everything was aboveboard,” said McCoy. “No one told me who to vote for.”
In fact, McCoy said she was unaware of Trump’s comment that “bad things happen in Philadelphia.” McCoy said she fell asleep about 30 minutes into the debate.
In the final moments of Tuesday’s debate with former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump claimed that poll watchers were “thrown out” of the seven satellite offices in the city.
Trump is making “completely inaccurate” statements about these satellite election offices, said Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar.
On Twitter, the president’s son also claimed that poll watchers were “blocked and kicked out” of polling locations.
Boockvar noted several inaccuracies in those statements.
Among them, poll watchers have not yet been approved by Philadelphia or any county board of elections in Pennsylvania to watch the polls on Election Day.
“There are no poll watchers yet,” said Boockvar. “They literally do not exist right now.”
Appointed poll watchers are assigned to watch the polling stations — not county election offices, Boockvar said.
At Philadelphia satellite election centers, citizens can to register to vote, if needed, request a mail-in ballot in-person, receive it, vote, and return it, all at the same location, officials said.
Voters can also take their completed mail-in ballots to the satellite offices, and any voter can utilize any of the satellite offices throughout the city.
But Boockvar’s reassurances did little to slow down the Trump campaign, which threatened a lawsuit could be filed as early as Wednesday afternoon if it does not gain access soon.
“No one questions that Philadelphians are voting at these locations,” Kerns wrote. “Accordingly, the denial to the campaign of watchers lacks any rational basis and deprives the campaign of its right to monitor the process.”
At the Liacouras Center Wednesday, voter Beverly Quintancy said she didn’t know about Trump’s remarks and “didn’t care.”
“I don’t listen to that man,” Quintancy said. She applied for a mail-in ballot that will be sent to her home, she said. The process took about five minutes, she added.
Asked about Trump’s remarks, McCoy said the president was only interested in power. “Even if he gets reelected, I think he’ll try to find a way to get elected again in four years,” said McCoy. “All he cares about is power.”
Ten more satellite elections locations are planned in Philadelphia before the Nov. 3 election.