The Republican and Democratic Pennsylvania primaries will be held on Tuesday, April 26, and the Keystone State is a key stone in the 2016 presidential election. The Republican primary will award 71 delegates: 17 to the statewide winner and 54 unbound delegates. The Democratic contest will proportionately award 210 delegates.
“This is a great year to make the point that every delegate counts,” says Dawn Maglicco Deitch, executive director of the Office of Government and Community Affairs (OGCA), which leads nonpartisan campus voter outreach and education efforts, and coordinates voter engagement activities. “When the conventions roll out and the delegate counts are on, every delegate from every state is going to matter.”
Pennsylvanians will also vote for candidates for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, attorney general, auditor general, treasurer, the entire state House, odd numbered districts in the state Senate, and delegates and alternative delegates to the Republican and Democratic conventions. There are ballot questions as well, about amending the Pennsylvania Constitution to abolish the Philadelphia Traffic Court and raise the retirement age of judges. Although Pennsylvania has a closed primary, Independents can vote on the ballot questions.
With primary day less than a week away, Deitch says now is the perfect time for voters to double-check their registration status, make sure they know where their polling place is, and review their daily schedule to determine what time they will be able to vote.
Deitch says there has been a record high level of interest in the primary election this year from students, faculty, staff, and groups on campus looking for ways to engage.
“The level of conversation is high; the level of discourse is really elevated,” she says. “People are watching, listening, paying attention, sharing information with each other, moving each other.”
In non-presidential years, the Pennsylvania primary is held on the third Tuesday in May—usually the day after Commencement—limiting student involvement. In presidential election years, the primary moves up to the fourth Tuesday in April, allowing for a larger student voter turnout.
Voters only need to provide identification if it is their first time voting, or their first time voting at a particular polling place. A Penn ID is an acceptable form of identification.
OGCA begins its voter awareness and outreach efforts during Move-In and New Student Orientation, providing students with information about voting, voter registration forms, American flags, and copies of the U.S. Constitution.
For Constitution Day in mid-September and National Voter Registration Day in late-September, OGCA, in partnership with the city, has a voting machine brought to the lobby of the Penn Bookstore where students are encouraged to step behind the curtain, interact with the interface, view the ballots, and push buttons. Voter registration forms and information about voting are also presented at the annual Employee Resource Fair.
As the deadline to register for the primary nears, OGCA holds voter registration drives on Locust Walk and promotes online voter registration through the office’s social media accounts.
Post-deadline, the office begins gearing up for voter turnout and election day operations at the University. Penn has seven polling places on campus, five of which are run by the University community.
OGCA recruits people to work as nonpartisan poll workers and get more people engaged in election day activities.
“We like to have people from Penn working the polls because they’re knowledgeable about the campus,” says Jessica McIlhenny, administrative coordinator at OGCA.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.