What you need to know ahead of the 2023 Pa. primary election

Pennsylvania’s primary election will be held Tuesday, May 16. Here’s what you should know beforehand, from election deadlines to who’s on the ballot.

Voters wait in line outside a polling place in Philadelphia.

Voters wait in line outside a polling place in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Pennsylvania’s primary election is fast approaching, as are election-related deadlines. Here’s what you should know ahead of Election Day on Tuesday, May 16.

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What are the deadlines I need to know?

Below are deadlines specific to voting in the May primary.

  • Deadline to register to vote: Monday, May 1
  • Deadline to request mail or absentee ballot: 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 9
  • Deadline to return mail ballot: 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16 (postmarks do not count)
  • Deadline to submit military and overseas absentee ballots: 11:59 p.m. on May 15
  • Deadline for county to receive military and overseas absentee ballots: Tuesday, May 23

Can I still register to vote?

The deadline for Pennsylvanians to register to vote for the primary election is Monday, May 1. Pennsylvanians can find out whether they are registered to vote online.

Who can register to vote?

Anyone can register to vote, so long as they will have been a U.S. citizen for at least 30 days before the election, are a resident of Pennsylvania, and will be at least 18 on or before Election Day.

People who are incarcerated for felonies can’t vote under state law. People who are serving time for lesser charges or are out on probation, parole, or house arrest are eligible.

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Can I still apply for a mail or absentee ballot?

Voters who choose to vote by mail should submit their application as soon as possible to allow enough time for their ballot to be mailed to them, then returned to their county election office in time to be counted. The deadline to request a mail or absentee ballot is 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 9.

Can I vote early in person?

Registered Pennsylvania voters may choose to vote early in person.

Voters are encouraged to check their county’s website or call their county election office to see if ballots are finalized and available. If ballots are available, voters can apply for a mail or absentee ballot at their county election board or another designated location and cast their ballot in the same visit.

The last day to vote early in person is Tuesday, May 9.

What does a ‘closed primary’ mean?

Pennsylvania has a closed primary system, which means that only Democrats and Republicans can vote for their party’s nominees to run in the Nov. 7 general election.

However, people who don’t belong to the two major parties can still vote on local ballot questions.

When must mail ballots be received?

Completed mail ballots must be received by county boards of elections by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Postmarks do not count.

If there isn’t enough time to mail the ballot, voters can drop off in person at their county elections office or, if available, at a county drop box.

Pennsylvanians can also vote early in person by mail ballot until Tuesday, May 9. Voters can opt for an all-in-one visit to their county election office, where they can apply for a mail ballot, have an election official verify their eligibility, and cast their ballot.

Where can I drop off my mail ballot?

For those who choose to vote by mail, counties are providing secure drop box locations for ballots.

It’s still a little early for drop box location information, but once announced, the drop-off locations for Bucks, Chesco, Delco, Montco, and Philly can be found online.

Benjamin Graff and his son Jacob Graff drop off their mail-in ballots for the Pennsylvania primary election
Benjamin Graff, center, and his son Jacob Graff, 19, drop off their mail ballots for the Pennsylvania primary election, in Philadelphia, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

How will I know if my mail ballot was processed?

Voters can check the status of their mail ballot online.

What if I want to vote in person?

Pennsylvanians who would prefer to vote the old-fashioned way can do so in person on Election Day at the polls, which will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters can find their polling place online.

Where is my polling place?

Voters can find their polling place online.

Voters line up at polling place
Voters line up at the polling place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center at Broad and Race streets. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

What if I received an absentee or mail ballot but want to vote in person?

Voters who receive an absentee or mail ballot can opt to vote in person on Election Day. To do so, voters must bring their ballot and the pre-addressed outer return envelope to be voided. After they surrender their ballot and envelope and sign a declaration, they can vote using a regular ballot.

What happens if I request a mail ballot and don’t receive it?

Voters who request a mail ballot but don’t receive it, or don’t have it to surrender, may vote by provisional ballot at their polling place. The provisional ballot will be reviewed by the county board of elections post-Election Day to determine whether it will be counted.

Who is on the ballot?

In Pennsylvania, voters will weigh in on candidates for the state Supreme Court and intermediate appellate courts.

In Philadelphia, voters will weigh in on races with massive implications for the city’s future.

A crowded field of candidates is vying to succeed Mayor Jim Kenney. Here’s who’s running to become Philly’s next mayor.

On City Council, every seat is up for grabs, including seven at-large seats and 10 district-level seats. WHYY’s Billy Penn has an updated list of City Council candidates.

A number of candidates are running to become Philly’s fiscal watchdog after former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart resigned to run for mayor. Here’s a breakdown of controller hopefuls.

Voters can look up a sample ballot based on their address.

Voter info & resources

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