SPOTLIGHT: Voting: The Quick and Dirty, Primaries Edition

Zoe Kovacs | contributing officer

Voting is important. REALLY important. The right to vote is the essence of a democracy, and assuming you are 18 or older, a legal citizen of the United States, and not a felon or otherwise declared ineligible by a court of law, you can and should take full advantage of it. Why wouldn’t you have a say if you’re able? Sometimes the ins and outs of voting can be a little murky, so I’m here to clear that up for you. (Disclaimer: The following apply to voting in Pennsylvania. Rules for other states will likely vary.)

First things first: Registration. In order to vote, you must first register. If you are a college student, you can register using your school address, even if you are from out of state. Online registration forms are available via several websitesNote that some websites require the online form to be printed and mailed to your local elections office upon completion. You may also register in person at a DMV,elections office, or certain other government offices. To register, you will need a license or other state ID. The deadline to register is 30 days prior to an election. Mailed registration forms must be postmarked no later than that date. If you plan on voting in the primaries on April 26, you must register by March 28.

What are primaries? Primary elections are held by individual states to narrow down the pool of candidates to the two who will ultimately compete for the presidency. One democrat and one republican are chosen. Pennsylvania holds what are called “closed” elections, meaning that people can only vote within their registered party. In other words, democrats can only vote for democrats and republicans for republicans. Independents cannot vote in Pennsylvania primaries.

Primaries will take place on April 26. To vote, you must go to a polling place. Allegheny county polling locations can be found here. One will be located inside Soldiers and Sailors.

What if I can’t make it? If you registered somewhere you cannot be on election day, you can still vote via absentee ballot. To do so, you must apply to a County Board of Elections no later than 5 p.m. on the Tuesday before the election (in extenuating circumstances like unexpected illness or disability, the office will accept applications no later than 5 p.m. the Friday before the election.) You will then receive a paper absentee ballot, which you must complete and return to the County Board of Elections. Absentee ballots must be physically turned in by 5 p.m. on the day before the election, or by the 7th day before the election if mailed or faxed.

What should I bring to the polling location? If it is your first time voting at a polling location, you must bring an acceptable form of ID. This includes a PA drivers license or state-issued ID, government-issued ID, U.S. passport, U.S. Armed Forces ID, student ID, or employee ID. Acceptable non-photo identification includes a voter’s identification card, non-photo ID issued by the U.S. government or commonwealth, a firearm permit, or current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or government check. ♦

Photo by DonkeyHotey, released to public domain.

Zoe is a sophomore studying English and Classics. She loves watching foreign documentaries in her spare time.

Check out more from our March 2016 issue!