By Bill Madway
Believe it or not, the 2017 Pennsylvania Primary Election is less than 100 days away. (Stop cringing.) The primary is on Tuesday, May 16. The 2017 election cycle focuses on township and borough offices, such as commissioners, supervisors, and school board members, and county and state judges, including one 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.
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 I urge you to circle May 16 on your calendar and make plans to vote. I know what you’re thinking: “Why bother showing up for a primary election? Won’t most candidates be running unopposed?” That’s not entirely correct due to the odd practice of cross-filing. In PA, candidates running for local judicial positions (e.g., County Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia Municipal Court) and local school boards are permitted 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 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.
So if you or someone you know is not registered to vote – or is registered, but wants to change his/her party affiliation – visit the registration section on VotesPA.com to find out how to register online and the traditional way. Furthermore, if you expect to be away from your polling place on Election Day (e.g., at college, traveling, etc.), or you find it difficult to get to your polling location for health reasons, you can vote by absentee ballot. Click here for more information about this process.
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. Lastly, to see a list of the key dates and deadlines for the 2017 Pennsylvania election cycle, click here.