Voters Wanted: This Vanagon is Helping Philadelphians Vote

With COVID-19 making voting unsafe for a number of people, cities need ways to help get the vote out. Philadelphia is looking to a 1991 Vanagon.

Operated by David Thornburgh, president of the Committee of Seventy, a non-partisan good government group founded in 1904, the van will be out this fall helping people vote.

“People don’t vote every day, they vote twice a year – if that – so it’s really important for us to help them understand the rules, their options, and how they can make their votes count,” said Thornburgh.

And he’s got experience. The van was already out for Philadelphia’s recent primary election. There, it helped collect over 5,000 mail-in ballots from local voters. Although Pennsylvania had already decided to put measures in place to help citizens vote by mail before the pandemic, demand for mail-in voting has skyrocketed since the pandemic started with more than 1.8 million residents applying to vote via absentee ballot or by mail.

Voting was about to be made much more difficult after the Republican Party attempted to defund the post office. And although that plan was foiled, it’s clear that voters need all the help they can get.

So Thornburgh took the Vanagon to a shop just before lockdown measures hit and got it wrapped in red, white, and blue.

“My thought was pretty simple: people would stop and spot this crazy red, white and blue van and think, well, this must be the right place to drop off my ballot,” Thornburgh told Volkswagen.

Having long been a VW enthusiast, Thornburgh has owned several Westfalias. So it’s no surprise that he chose a Vanagon for duty here. But he truly believes it’s the best vehicle for the job.

“A Westfalia is a car that always invites a conversation. People just want to come and share their stories with you,” says Thornburgh. “And I love the driving experience. It’s like a Swiss Army knife on wheels – wherever you stop is home.”