With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting nearly every aspect of American life, our voting procedure is being affected significantly.
The first confirmed case of coronavirus in the United States was reported on January 21, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This was a week before the nation’s first presidential caucus in Iowa on February 3. Since then, the virus has grown to nearly one million confirmed cases and more than 55,000 deaths as of April 25, according to the CDC.
As a result, many states, including Pennsylvania, have postponed their primary elections to limit the spread of COVID-19. Pennsylvania rescheduled its primary election for June 2, joining 11 other states and the District of Columbia in what some are calling a new “Super Tuesday,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
A primary election is where each political party chooses a candidate to run for U.S. President in the November general election, with that candidate determined by the highest number of votes, according to VotesPA. Voters can also cast their ballots on constitutional amendments, ballot questions and other special election contests during a primary election.
By rescheduling the date of the Pennsylvania primary, many individuals may be confused about when the deadline for voter registration is, as well as how to register to vote and cast their ballot this June.
The issue may be more complicated for Temple University students, many of whom may not currently live in the same city or even state they go to school in.
Whether you’re still living in Philadelphia or you’re looking to vote from your hometown address, here’s a guide on how to vote in the upcoming primary election.
HOW TO REGISTER AND CHECK YOUR REGISTRATION STATUS
You can register to vote online by visiting Can I Vote, a nonpartisan website run by the National Association of Secretaries of State.
The deadline to register to vote in the upcoming primary election is May 18, according to Pennsylvania’s voter registration application, so it’s essential that you register as soon as possible.
If you’ve previously registered to vote with the address you are currently living at, you do not need to register to vote again for this upcoming election, according to the federal government’s information website. You can still check your voter registration status to confirm you can vote in the primary by visiting Can I Vote, which also has information about polling places, valid forms of identification and more.
You can check your voter registration status to see if you are currently registered to vote at your current residence by visiting the voter registration status page at Can I Vote. If your address on file does not match your current residence, you can update your registration electronically and by mail by visiting VotesPA.
If you’ve moved to a new Pennsylvania address, you may register at that address if you’ve lived there for more than 30 days before the June 2 election, according to VotesPa. Remember that your voter registration application is due by May 18.
For college students, it’s important to remember whether you’ll be living at your currently registered address at the time of the primary election, as well as the general election in November. For example, I, like many college students, will be living in a new apartment come November, so it’s important for me to update my address at VotesPA when I first move.
In Pennsylvania, you can only vote for the political party that you have named in your voter registration, according to VotesPA. For example, registered Democrats cannot vote for Republican candidates without first changing their party affiliation in their voter registration, and vice versa.
You can change your party affiliation by visiting VotesPA and selecting the “Change of Party” box on your voter registration form. In order for this change in party affiliation to take effect for the June 2 primary, you must make the change more than 30 days prior to the election, or by May 1.
HOW TO VOTE BY MAIL-IN OR ABSENTEE BALLOT IN PENNSYLVANIA
With the current health crisis, Gov. Tom Wolf and multiple state legislators are encouraging Pennsylvania residents to vote by mail in the upcoming primary election, Lehigh Valley Live reported.
Voting by mail is the safest way to cast a ballot this June, as you can avoid close contact with others and can refrain from touching materials that others may have used before, like voting machines and pens, the Inquirer reported.
You have to apply to vote by mail-in or absentee ballot, and the deadline for applications for the June primary election is Tuesday, May 26 at 5 p.m., according to VotesPA. You can apply online or by mail — you must supply valid identification, including a driver’s license number, the last four digits of your social security number or a copy of an acceptable photo ID, according to VotesPA. Both applications are available in English and Spanish. Visit VotesPA for more instructions.
You do not have to specify a reason when applying for a mail-in ballot, but you have to supply a reason when applying for an absentee ballot, NBC10 Philadelphia reported. College students who are not registered to vote at their current address are eligible to apply for an absentee ballot, according to VotesPA.
While absentee ballots are ordinarily used for individuals who cannot be physically present at a polling place, mail-in ballots are accessible for all registered voters, according to VotesPA.
The deadline to return your voted mail-in or absentee ballot is 8 p.m. on June 2, the day of the election, according to VotesPA.
With such strict deadlines for applying, registering and returning your mail-in or absentee ballot, it’s crucial that you begin this process as soon as possible.
FOR NON-PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENTS
For Temple students who aren’t currently living in Pennsylvania, your choices may be a bit more complicated to navigate through, but you do have options.
College students living in one state but studying in another have the option to vote in either state — not both, according to ThoughtCo, an education reference site.
First, you should check your registration status at Can I Vote to find out where you are currently registered to vote. After you’ve determined that, decide whether you want to keep or change the address on file. Visit USA.gov for more information on how to change your address with your voter registration.
Remember, different states have different deadlines for voter registration status, and some states have already completed their primary election. This may affect what state you decide to vote in.
Also keep in mind different states have different policies for voting by mail or by absentee ballot, both of which are safe and healthy alternatives to voting in person. Depending on what state you choose to register to vote in, you should read their policies for voting by mail-in or absentee ballot, and see whether these have changed to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHY YOU SHOULD VOTE
You may have heard people tell you that your vote doesn’t matter — they’re wrong.
Generation Z and millennials, which include a large percentage of college students and other young people, will comprise 37 percent of the electorate in the 2020 election, Axios reported in January 2019. Our influence is significant on both state- and federal-level elections, and we have the power to elect officials who fight for the issues we care the most about.
Primary elections are important. On top of giving you a voice to select your party’s presumptive presidential nominee, primaries are also the main way voters can get to know their candidates and politicians can build their platform, ThoughtCo reported.
In the general election this November, you’ll be able to vote for state senators and representatives to Congress, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and so many more civil servants, according to a VotesPa. The decisions and policies of those officials affects your everyday life in a variety of ways.
You have a voice in selecting the policymakers who will affect your life on both a local and federal level, but you can only exercise your voice if you register to vote. Become familiar with the deadlines for registration and the policies for mail-in and absentee ballots in your state to ensure you remain healthy while voting.
If you’re unhappy with the way things are now, register to vote.