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This article is shared with LebTown by content partner Spotlight PA.
By Kate Huangpu of Spotlight PA
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s 2023 primary election is here.
Voters are heading to the polls to cast their ballots for statewide judicial seats, local positions such as school board member, and two special state House races. Election officials across the commonwealth are also counting the mail ballots that have been coming in for weeks.
The winners of these primary elections will face off in the Nov. 7 general election.
Notably, the state Supreme Court has one vacant seat after the death of former Chief Justice Max Baer, who occupied the bench for nearly two decades. The court has the final say on major policy disputes, and in recent years has decided cases on reproductive rights, mask mandates, and election law.
Here’s what you need to know about how primary Election Day 2023 will go down.
When is Election Day?
It’s today! Tuesday, May 16.
When do polls open?
Polls open at 7 a.m and close at 8 p.m. If you’re in line when the polls close, make sure you stay in line — you can still vote.
Where do I vote?
You can find your polling place here.
Am I registered to vote?
You can check if you’re registered here. If you’re not registered, it’s too late to get on the books in time for the May primary. But you can still register here to vote in the general election in November.
Can I vote if my registration is inactive?
Yes! An “inactive” voter is one who hasn’t voted for five years and hasn’t responded to a county notice about their registration.
If that’s your status, you can still vote.
Can I switch parties for the primary?
It’s too late to switch parties in time for the primary — you have to update your registration at least 15 days prior to an election.
Voters can choose candidates in a party’s primary only if they are registered to that party. That means if you’re not registered with either major party, you can’t vote in most of the races on the primary ballot. However, if you’re registered to a third party or are unaffiliated, you can still vote in ballot referendums and special elections.
If you want to change your registration for the general election, you can do so here.
Can I vote if I live in a different county?
If you moved within Pennsylvania more than 30 days before an election but did not update your registration, you can vote at the polling place for your old address for one election.
The Department of State’s rule is: “If you moved to a different county, you need to fill out a form telling us your new address and the county where you moved. After the election, the county election office for both your old and new addresses will update your voter registration. You will receive a new voter registration card matching your new address.”
But if you moved to Pennsylvania from another state, you need to have resided in your district for at least 30 days before the next election to be able to vote there.
Read more in the “If you move” section of the Department of State’s website.
What do I need to bring to vote?
If this is your first time voting or your first time voting since changing addresses, you’ll need to bring proof of identification. This can include any government-issued ID such as a driver’s license or U.S. passport, a utility bill or bank statement that includes your name and address, or a military or student ID. See the full list of options here.
If you’ve voted at this polling place before, you don’t need to bring anything.
How do I check if my mail ballot has been received?
You can check the status of your mail ballot here.
Can I still vote by mail?
The last day to request a mail ballot was May 9. If you didn’t submit a request by then, you won’t be able to vote by mail in the primary.
If you did receive a mail ballot but haven’t mailed it yet — don’t. Read on for instructions on last-minute mail ballot submissions.
I’m worried my mail ballot won’t arrive in time. How can I return it?
Your county election office must receive your ballot by 8 p.m. on Election Day. If you still have your mail ballot on Election Day, don’t put it in the mail, as it won’t arrive by the deadline.
Instead, drop it off at your county election office or at a satellite location or drop box, if your county offers those options. See a full list of ballot drop-off locations here.
I requested a mail ballot but haven’t gotten it. What should I do?
Reach out to your county election office to check in on the status of your ballot. You can find your office here.
If you have not received your mail ballot, you can still vote in person at your polling location. A poll worker will offer you a provisional ballot, which will be counted after election officials confirm you did not submit a mail ballot.
I have a mail ballot but don’t want to use it. How can I vote?
Bring all your mail ballot components, including the envelopes, to your polling place and turn them over to poll workers. You’ll be required to sign a form declaring that you haven’t voted by mail. After that, you should be allowed to vote at the precinct.
What should I look out for when filling in my mail ballot?
Before you send in your mail ballot, be sure to check a few things:
- Make sure your ballot is sealed in the inner secrecy envelope. The secrecy envelope will have “official election ballot” written on it.
- Don’t write anything on the inner secrecy envelope.
- Sign and date the voter’s declaration on the outside of the outer return envelope, and make sure the date is the current date.
You can read more about how to fill out your mail ballot here.
What will I be voting on?
You can use the League of Women Voters’ sample ballot tool to see what your ballot will look like on Election Day, including local races and ballot measures.
Pennsylvania has multiple high-level court races this year, including an open state Supreme Court seat. You can read Spotlight PA’s guides to the state Supreme Court race here and Commonwealth Court and Superior Court races here.
Voters will also choose candidates for positions such as school board member, mayor, and district attorney. You can read Spotlight PA’s guide to vetting local candidates here.
Read our complete coverage, plus key dates, campaign finance data, sample ballots, and more at our Election Center 2023 website.
A complete listing of Spotlight PA voter guides to:
- Candidates for state Supreme Court
- Candidates for Commonwealth and Superior Courts
- Figuring out who is on the ballot, when to vote, how to vote, where to vote, and more
- Vetting candidates for school board, judge, and more
- Requesting, filling out, and returning your mail ballot
- Navigating cross-filing in local races
- Una guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del Estado
- Una guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte de la Commonwealth y Cortes Superiores
- Una guía completa para el día de las elecciones primarias de Pa. 2023, que incluye quién está en la papeleta, cuándo votar, cómo votar, dónde votar, emitir el voto por correo y más
- Todo lo que necesita saber para solicitar, llenar y devolver su papeleta de voto por correo
- Una guía básica para investigar a los candidatos a la junta escolar, para juez y más
WHILE YOU’RE HERE… If you learned something from this story, pay it forward and become a member of Spotlight PA so someone else can in the future at spotlightpa.org/donate. Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.