Sample ballots show cracks in Philly’s still-powerful Democratic machine

After every election, thousands of sample ballots litter the unswept streets of Philadelphia, seemingly without purpose. Just hours prior, those same scraps of paper were imbued with power.

Handed out by campaign workers in hopes of swinging votes in their candidate’s direction, these mock-up endorsement sheets are a hard-to-quantify force in the matrix of factors that influence results on Election Day.

But one thing about sample ballots is certain: The city’s Democratic machine is still strong when it comes to electing its endorsed candidates, but it’s not what it used to be. Rescinded endorsements, factions within certain wards, voters bucking the party’s recommendations — there’s a lot happening beneath these paper slips.

Campaigns continue to pay big money to ensure their candidate’s names are on as many ballots as possible.

Do they even matter? It appears voters think so, even if they don’t end up swaying any decisions. When Billy Penn and WHYY asked voters to send in sample ballots for the May primary election, we received hundreds of submissions. They came from various wards, political action committees, unions and even the candidates themselves.

Our collection (hosted here) isn’t a big enough pool to say anything definitive, but there were parts of the city where the paper ballot clearly served as a guiding light — and others where it arguably did not.

Read more at Billy Penn

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