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HomePrimary Basics
Primary Election Basics
Information for Allegheny County Voters
Upcoming Events
Primary Dates and Deadlines

What is a Primary?

The main purpose of Pennsylvania's Primary Election, held in April or May each year, is to select the Republican and Democratic candidates who will be on the ballot in the November General Election. Sometimes the primary also has ballot issues to vote on, such as tax increases or constitutional amendments. Although only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote in their party’s Primary, all registered voters can vote on ballot issues. 
2024 Primary Elections Menu

Why Vote?  It's Just a Primary.

Many municipal elections are decided in the primary.
Primaries are critically important because they select the candidates who run in November. That selection affects everyone, not just voters registered with the two major parties.  

In some races, the Primary result is the final result. 
Sometimes all candidates running for an office are members of the majority party in the district, and the primary winner has no opponent in November. This happens often in small, municipal races and in districts that lean strongly towards one party. 

Primary Dates

Presidential vs. Non-Presidential Election Years

Pennsylvania Election Code sets the date for primary elections. 

  • In a presidential election year, the date is the 4th Tuesday in April.
  • In all other years, the date is the 3rd Tuesday in May.
  • The PA General Assembly may pass legislation to move the date of the Primary.  (In 2000, the date of the Primary was moved to April 4, and in 2020, the date was moved to June 2.)
  Calendar Conflict:  Primary Election Day is the First Day of Passover.    
Request a Mail-in Ballot Now, and Vote at Your Convenience.   
See our Mail-in Voting page for details.

Can You Vote in the Primary?

Closed Primary Rules
Yes, if you are registered to vote as a Democrat or Republican before April 8.

Pennsylvania has closed primaries.
Voters can choose a party when they register to vote. Only voters who choose to register with the Democratic or Republican parties are able to vote for candidates in the primary election. Voters who registered with a "third-party" or no party cannot vote for candidates in a primary.  

If you want to vote in the Primary but aren’t registered in either major party, you can re-register to vote in the party of your choice, and vote in the primary. Then, after the Primary, you can re-register without selecting a party affiliation to end your registration as a Democrat or Republican.
A chart showing the Pennsylvania voting rules for primarys.   In PA, members of the two major parties have more voting power. The chart shows that third party or no-party voters cannot vote for candidates in the primary, but can vote for ballot questions in the primary.

You can update your party registration, name or address at   
April 8  is the deadline to update your registration in time for the April 23 Primary Election.
Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states with a closed primary system that excludes independent and "third-party" voters. Yet well over 1 million Pennsylvania voters, nearly a third of total registered voters, are not affiliated with either major political party, and their number is growing. Each state’s laws define the way it runs its primaries, and the League of Women Voters has repeatedly supported proposed legislation in Harrisburg that would open Pennsylvania’s closed primary system to all registered voters.

Nonpartisan Ballots

In a few cases, all registered voters are eligible to vote on Primary Day.
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All Registered Voters May Vote on Ballot Questions in the Primary
All Registered Voters May Vote on Ballot Questions in the Primary

All registered voters may vote on ballot questions that appear on the primary ballot. This includes local ballot initiatives at the municipal or county level, and state-level questions added to the ballot by the PA General Assembly, including proposed amendments to the PA Constitution.

Voters who are not registered as Democrats or Republicans will receive a "Nonpartisan Ballot" that contains only the ballot questions (and/or special elections). No primary candidates will appear on the Nonpartisan Ballot.

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All Registered Voters May Vote in Special Elections Scheduled on Primary Day
All Registered Voters May Vote in Special Elections Scheduled on Primary Day

All registered voters may vote in a Special Election race that is scheduled on Primary Day. A special election occurs when an elected official resigns or dies in the middle of a term. Special Elections are sometimes scheduled on the same day as the Primary, and the candidates will appear on all primary ballots in their districts, including Democratic, Republican and nonpartisan ballots.

Candidates elected in a special election will begin serving their terms immediately after the election. They do not have to run again in November.

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How Do I Know If There Will Be a Nonpartisan Ballot Available?
How Do I Know If There Will Be a Nonpartisan Ballot Available?

If you know there is a special election or ballot question in your precinct, there will be a non-partisan ballot available, but if you're not sure, use a tool to preview your ballot. Enter your identifying information to see if there will be a non-partisan ballot in your precinct. (These tools will be updated a few weeks before the election.)

How to Preview Your Ballot

Which Races Are on the Ballot in the 2024 Primary?
Federal Elections
The President of the United States is on the primary ballot in 2024. 

US House of Representatives - All seats are up for election.

US Senate  -  One of Pennsylvania's 2 seats, currently held by Bob Casey (D), is up for election.

State Elections
Pennsylvania's Attorney General, Auditor General, and Treasurer are on the ballot in 2024.

Pennsylvania House of Representatives - All 203 seats are up for election.

Pennsylvania Senate - 25 of the 50 seats are up for election.  Positions in odd-numbered districts are on the ballot in 2024.  

thm - roles and duties 2024
Who's on Your Ballot in 2024?
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Convention Delegates

In presidential election years, party delegates to the National Conventions appear on the Primary ballots.

Here's what you need to know about the delegate choices on your ballot:

  • When you vote for convention delegates you are voting as a member of your political party to elect someone to an internal (and temporary) party role.
  • You are not voting as a citizen to elect a government official. 

The presidential nomination vote at a party convention is rarely close due to rules in both parties that aim to lock in a clear winner during the state primaries.  This makes the roles of the convention delegates largely ceremonial.

Democratic and Republican National Convention Delegates

In Pennsylvania, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have different rules for selecting delegates to their National Conventions.  The parties make their own rules. (The rules are not defined by the PA law or regulations.) 

Both parties choose some delegates through the Primary Election and allow party leadership to select others. In both parties, some delegates are pledged to a certain candidate while others are not pledged.

Some of delegates who attend the National Party Conventions this summer will be selected on the Primary ballot.  Each US Congressional district elects a slate of party delegates.

If you are voting in the Democratic Primary:
  • You do not elect convention delegates directly.  The results of the Presidential race in your district will determine how many pledged delegates for each candidate are sent to the Convention from your district.*  

  • For example, in a district with 8 delegates, if Presidential Candidate A gets 60% of the votes in your district and Presidential Candidate B gets 40%, the rules would determine that the district will send 5 delegates to vote for Candidate A and 3 delegates to vote for Candidate B.  
  • Your vote for the pledged delegates at the bottom of the ballot helps decide which 5 delegates pledged to Candidate A and which 3 delegates pledged to Candidate B will go to the Democratic National Convention.  
If you are voting in the Republican Primary:
  • You select convention delegates directly. Your vote for a presidential candidate at the top of the ballot does not affect the selection of delegates sent to the Convention from your district.*
  • Delegates are not pledged to vote for a certain candidate, and the ballot does not indicate the delegates' candidate preferences.  Some intend to vote for a certain candidate, and some may intend to vote for the candidate who wins their district.  You may be able to find this information in local media or from your local Republican Committee.   
  • Your vote for the delegates at the bottom of the ballot decides which unpledged delegates will go to the Republican National Convention.
*In both parties, a group of statewide delegates selected by party leaders is pledged to vote for the statewide winner of the Presidential Primary Election.
If you want to get into the details, you can learn more here: 

How Do "Third Party"  Candidates  Get on the November Ballot?
Candidates of "third parties"  cannot participate in the PA Primary.  Their nomination process begins after the Primary, and they qualify for the General Election ballot by submitting nominating papers with a required number of voter signatures.  These papers are due ten weeks after the Primary - usually in early August.   This is very similar to the process that Democratic and Republican party candidates use to qualify for the Primary ballot.

How to Vote 
Check your voter registration status at this link:  Check Voter Registration

The status report will tell you 
  • if your registration is active
  • your complete "political address," including your municipality, ward and precinct
  • the location of your polling place
  • whether you have applied for a mail-in ballot

If you have questions about registering, or voting in person or by mail, see our Voting Pages.
Voting Pages

Preview Your Ballot 

Will this be on the test?

There will be over 2,000 different primary ballots in Allegheny County.  While a few federal and statewide races get media attention,  it can be more difficult to find information on "down ballot" races.

The candidates on your ballot will depend on your location, and your political party. 

  • The League of Women Voter's Vote411  website will allow you to see all of your candidates, and their responses to our candidate survey (if they responded!
  • The County's ballot preview will allow you to see exactly what your ballot will look like.  You can use it to see the candidates who will appear on your ballot.
Enter your address to see which candidates will be on YOUR Ballot. 


Candidate responses to our Voters' Guide survey will also be available at this site during election season.  
Allegheny County Ballot Preview

Ballot images are available after ballots are printed, usually a few weeks before each election at this link: 

2024 Primary Ballots

The form asks you to enter your municipality, ward and precinct.  If you're not sure, you can find all this information by checking your voter registration status:   

Check Voter Registration  

When will ballots be available?  Has your polling place changed?  How many voters have requested mail-in ballots?  Will there be drop-boxes? ...

You can receive weekly email updates from the Allegheny County Elections Board during election seasons by subscribing here: 
  Subscribe to "Allegheny Votes" Newsletter

From our Voter Resource Library   --    Information to help you, your classroom or community group prepare for the May Primary.

Get Ready to Vote in the Primary
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thm - roles and duties 2024
Who's on Your Ballot in 2024?
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Why Vote the Whole Ballot?

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Closed Primary in PA

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