How to prepare for the primary election

Emma Polen | Editor-in-Chief | Remember to vote on April 23 and receive your "I Voted" sticker.

Emma Polen | Editor-in-Chief 

April 23 Primary Election – Guiding preparation for PA voters

The Pennsylvania primaries will take place on April 23, and while there may not be too many options on voters’ ballots this year, last minute decisions could make a big impact on policy following the general election in November. The Duke has broken down what some of these decisions look like, and what this means specifically for Pennsylvanians.

Why vote in the primary?

Pennsylvania is a closed primary state, which means registered Republicans can only vote on Republican nominees and registered Democrats will vote on Democratic nominees. Either way, the state and local government have some important seats up in November, even if there’s not too many options on your ballot this April 23 during the primaries.

The winners of the primary will have a chance at seats that will define policy on abortion, education funding, fracking, legalization of recreational weed and voting rights, according to Pittsburgh City Paper’s Colin Williams.

How can I vote? has a great “Find Your Polling Place” page. Input your address for details on your specific polling place. Remember, you must vote in-person ONLY at your designated polling place. All other voters, including students who cannot make it home to vote, must have applied for a mail-in ballot by April 16. These ballots must be RECEIVED on or before Election Day. Ballots postmarked before Election Day but not received until after will be thrown out.

Polls will be open for in-person voting from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. For mail-in ballots, be sure to add a handwritten date on the outside of the envelope. Without the stamp of timeliness, even if they are received in time, a ballot will be considered invalid and not be counted. In addition, an absentee or mail-in ballot that is not enclosed in the secrecy envelope will be disqualified.

Who can I vote for in April?

The U.S. Senate race is not looking for new candidates on this year’s primary ballot: Incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) and Dave McCormick (R) are both running unopposed for Pa.’s one open U.S. Senate seat.

Attorney General, the state’s chief law enforcement official, is a position currently held by prosecutor Michelle Henry (D), who will not be running for reelection this year. In her stead, five Democratic and two Republican nominees are up on the ballot in Pennsylvania. More information on all the candidates running can be found in “City Paper’s Pittsburgh Election Guide” series.

Republican Tim DeFoor currently holds the state’s position of Auditor General. The Democrats have two candidates running to take his place as the reviewer of state spending, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia and Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley. Kenyatta is the first LGBTQ+ person of color to be elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, according to City Paper, and he specifically pledges to rebuild the Bureau of School Audits to demand accountability from schools in Pennsylvania. Pinsley’s demands for education address outdated equipment at public schools. He has also advocated to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for pollution.

A similar race is happening for State Treasurer. Republican Stacy Garrity currently holds the position, and both democrats Ryan Bizzarro (Erie County) and Erin McClelland (Allegheny County) are vying for a spot on the November ballot. Bizzarro is in support of retaining the Commonwealth’s 529 tax-free college savings along with low-interest loans and care for individuals in need. McClelland also looks to protect local interests, and she advocates for tariffs in order to protect state dollars from being spent abroad in nations like China.

In the Pennsylvania 12th District, incumbent U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-Swissvale, is up against Bhavini Patel for the democratic seat in Congress. Lee has branded herself as the anti-fracking representative. Patel backs similar solutions to President Joe Biden concerning the environment and the conflict in Gaza. She has openly criticized Lee for a lack of active support for Israel and Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.

Where can I find my practice ballot?

Voters in Allegheny County can view their practice ballot prior to heading to the polls through the official Allegheny County site. You will need to know your specific municipality, ward and district, all of which can be searched on their interactive “Allegheny County Voting District Boundaries” map. Similar maps and practice ballots are available for voters in Pennsylvania by searching Google for “PA practice ballot” along with the name of their county.

Vote411 also lists out candidates who will be on your ballot through their “Personalized Ballot” page. This site also provides more details on what each race means and the candidates who are running so that you can feel confident you are making educated decisions at the polls.

What does the presidential race look like?

No surprises here. Biden and Republican Donald Trump will face off again for the presidency. In the Pennsylvania primary, there will be no rivals to either candidate on the ballot, aside from the write-in option. In other states, an “uncommitted” option offers voters a chance to clearly show their non commitment for the incumbent leadership or for their likely rival on the other side of the aisle. In this year’s primary, states’ Democrats have voted “uncommitted” to show their disapproval for Biden’s choices in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

In states like Pennsylvania where write-in is the only alternative to Biden, NPR reported that organizers of 30 pro-Palestinian and progressive groups are hoping for 40,000 write-in votes in excess of the average number cast (since Pennsylvania Democrats have a number of write-ins every year). In Allegheny County, NPR said, 6,253 Democratic write-in ballots were counted in the 2020 primary alone.