Registration for Pa. primary closes Monday, voters already on the rise

Pennsylvania’s primary is May 21 and includes voting for candidates for positions such as mayor, district attorney, and city and county councils.

A man smiles while holding a sign that says,

In this file photo, a man in the audience cheers as he holds up a sign during a voter registration event at West Philadelphia High School. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

Voter registration for Pennsylvania’s May 21 primary election closes Monday, and, according to data from several counties, registration is already on the rise.

The continued increase in voter turnout is presumably related to today’s national political climate, said Pat Christmas, policy director at the Committee of Seventy. And in cities like Philadelphia, the population has risen for the 12th straight year, according to data from the Census Bureau released Thursday.

For the 2019 primary, Philadelphia once again hit 1 million registered voters, with an increase of about 13,000 over the 2018 primary.

Since the 2015 primary, voter registration has increased overall for Philadelphia and its surrounding Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. Democrats still hold the reins in highest counted voter registration except for Chester County, where around 43% of residents are registered Republican and 40% are registered Democrat.

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Pennsylvania does not have an open primary, so only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote for candidates in their party in the primary.

The easiest way to register to vote — as well as change your address or party affiliation — is through the state voter services website. You are also able to check your registration status and find your local polling place.

Christmas added that more and more Pennsylvanians are using the state’s online registration system, which is an important step forward.

“The thousands of hard-copy voter registration applications received by election officials pose considerable processing challenges, especially when received in large batches just before the deadline,” Christmas said.

If you’re registering to vote for the first time, or voting in a new precinct, you’ll be asked to show a form of ID when you head to the polls.

In Philadelphia, voters will select candidates for mayor, all 17 seats on City Council, county sheriff and register of wills.

And Philadelphians, regardless of their party affiliation, can weigh in on four proposed city charter amendments on the ballot.

These include:

  • Changing Philadelphia’s City Council charter’s gender-specific references from councilman and councilwoman to councilperson.
  • Deciding whether to make the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs permanent. It was created under an executive order by Mayor Jim Kenney in 2016.
  • Calling for the state legislature to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $15 by 2025, or to allow Philadelphia to increase the city’s minimum wage before that.
  • Creating a new class of public safety officers to assist police in monitoring traffic and other code provisions.

Surrounding counties also have a number of elections for county commission, county council, clerk of courts, district attorney, register of wills and treasurer — as well as ballot questions — to name a few. You can find a list of candidates for Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties on the Committee of Seventy’s website.

May 14 is the last day to apply for a civilian absentee ballot for the primary. But due to the state’s strict absentee ballot law, officials suggest applying sooner rather than later. The last day County Board of Elections will accept voter civilian absentee ballots is May 17.

WHYY’s Aaron Moselle contributed reporting.

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