Voting Taken Off the Menu at Philly Deli A new law in Pennsylvania ends the use of non-traditional polling stations. Among them is Philadelphia's Casino Deli, where Harry Tankel has worked for 14 years as an election volunteer. He tells Linda Wertheimer about the change.

Voting Taken Off the Menu at Philly Deli

Voting Taken Off the Menu at Philly Deli

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A new law in Pennsylvania ends the use of non-traditional polling stations. Among them is Philadelphia's Casino Deli, where Harry Tankel has worked for 14 years as an election volunteer. He tells Linda Wertheimer about the change.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

On Tuesday, voters in Philadelphia's 57th Ward headed to the Casino Deli, but they weren't there for the corn beef sandwiches or for the lunch special. They were at the deli to vote.

For more than a decade, the Casino Deli has doubled as a neighborhood polling station. But a new law passed in Pennsylvania last week will put that deli, and about 90 other non-traditional polling stations, out of the elections business. The new law affects a number of cities around the state. But most of the polling places to be closed are in Philadelphia.

Harry Tankel has been working the polls at the Casino Deli for the past 14 years. He joins us from his home in Philadelphia.

Mr. Tankel, thank you for being with us.

Mr. HARRY TANKEL (Poll Worker, Casino Deli): You're quite welcome.

WERTHEIMER: Mr. Tankel...

Mr. TANKEL: Yeah.

WERTHEIMER: ...when people come to vote at the deli, do they line up at the counter like they were going to get sandwiches, and then also vote? Or how does it work?

Mr. TANKEL: No. They generally walk in to the voting room.

WERTHEIMER: This is a room like a banquet room in the back of the deli or something?

Mr. TANKEL: Yes. There's two banquet rooms. One is a medium size. The other is a large size. We use the medium size room. And when they walk in, they go into the voting machines. They vote and then they leave.

(Soundbite of chuckling)

WERTHEIMER: Have you ever noticed anybody lined up to vote with a big hunk of corn beef in their hand?

Mr. TANKEL: No. And they don't eat while they're voting.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TANKEL: No. They may like the corn beef, but they usually have that either before or after they vote.

WERTHEIMER: Well, tell me what it was like on Tuesday. What was the...

Mr. TANKEL: It was very quiet Tuesday. It wasn't much of a exciting election.

WERTHEIMER: You didn't have...

Mr. TANKEL: There was no opposition for the Republican Party. And there was no opposition from the Democratic Party.

WERTHEIMER: So some of the polling stations that are going to be closed for good, they would include things like private homes, a pub, a vacant funeral home. How did places like those places and the Casino Deli become polling places?

Mr. TANKEL: Well, we use to vote in the library.

WERTHEIMER: Mm-hmm.

Mr. TANKEL: And for a while, they closed the library to renovate it, or to remodel it. But anyway, we decided that it would be very convenient to use Casino Deli because there's a lot of parking available. It's accessible to the people that live in the voting district. It's sort of centered.

WERTHEIMER: So you haven't been told where the voters that normally vote at the deli would go in November?

Mr. TANKEL: I don't think they know themselves.

WERTHEIMER: So you think you might...

Mr. TANKEL: But I think people here, that come to vote for us, I think it's a hardship for them to go somewhere else.

WERTHEIMER: Mr. Tankel, how's the food?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TANKEL: I hate to say it, but we're not particularly fond of the food at the Casino Deli. It's a good place and a lot of people go there...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TANKEL: But it's very reasonable.

WERTHEIMER: Harry Tankel is a volunteer committee person. He worked for the polls at the Casino Deli in Philadelphia.

Mr. Tankel, thank you so much for helping us out.

Mr. TANKEL: You're quite welcome. I hope something beneficial comes of this.

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