2017 Primary Election

The 2017 Primary Election is on Tuesday, May 16, less than two days away. (Stop cringing.) This year’s election cycle focuses on township and borough offices, such as commissioners, council members, and school board members, and county and state judges, including a seat on the PA Supreme Court. In addition, two justices already on the PA Supreme Court will be facing retention elections, one Democrat and one Republican; the retention elections will appear on the General Election ballot (November 7, 2017).

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While races like these might not seem as important as a presidential or gubernatorial race, the positions at stake this year do have significant effects on our lives. Here’s one example. All of us are aware of the egregious gerrymandering of legislative districts in PA. But relief might be in sight. Our state legislative and Congressional districts will be redrawn after the 2020 Census. The PA Supreme Court plays a crucial role in the redistricting of state legislative districts. Democrats currently control the court, five justices to two. But a switch of only two justices would change the balance of power and make it very difficult for the Democratic Party to re-gain control of the PA Senate and House for the decade that follows.

That’s why we at DJOP urge you to circle May 16 on your calendar and make plans to vote. We know what you’re thinking: “Why bother showing up for a primary election? Won’t most candidates be running unopposed?” That’s not entirely true. First off, there are  contested races on the Democratic primary ballot in most municipalities. So, your vote is needed to make sure we select the best candidates.

Beyond that, there is the odd practice of cross-filing to consider. In PA, candidates running for local judicial positions (e.g., County Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia Municipal Court) and local school boards are allowed to run in both the Democratic and Republican primaries, if they gather enough signatures from members of each party on their nominating petitions. This means that if a candidate wins both the Democratic and Republican primaries in a local judicial or school board race, he or she is virtually guaranteed to win in the general election. So, if enough Democrats don’t show up on May 16, it’s possible we won’t have a Democratic choice in some races in the November 7 General Election.


And lastly, the Primary Election is the first opportunity Pennsylvania Democrats will have to send a direct message to President Trump and the GOP. Do you want them to see how upset and determined Democrats are, or do you want to send them the message that not much has changed with our party? If it’s the former, show the President and his party that there is no such thing as an “off-year” election. Get out there and vote!


  • If you have questions about where you polling place is, click here. If you want to preview the ballot you’ll be seeing at your polling place on Election Day, you can visit the website of the Voter Services office in your county. Click here to find the right resource in your county.
  • Keep in mind that Pennsylvania is a closed primary state. This means only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary, and vice versa. Members of third-parties may only vote if their party is having a primary.
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