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Voters were encouraged to vote by mail for this year's Pennsylvania primary because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Amid widespread concerns regarding voting during COVID-19, turnout in the June 2 Pennsylvania primary was down from 2016.

6.5% fewer Democrats and 29% fewer Republicans voted in the 2020 Pennsylvania primary than in the 2016 Pennsylvania primary, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Though fewer voters partook in Pennsylvania’s primary this year, political student groups said turnout among Penn students increased from the 2012 primary when Barak Obama re-ran for president, and that they remain hopeful for increased turnout for the November election.

Political science professor Matthew Levendusky said the later timing of this year’s primary, over a month later than in 2016, could have been a significant reason for the decrease in turnout. By the June 2 primary, Levendusky added that former Penn Presidential Professor of Practice Joe Biden and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump had already become the effective Democratic and Republican nominees, respectively, so voters may have felt less inclined to cast their ballots.

The Inquirer reported that more Democrats voted by mail than Republicans in all of Pennsylvania’s counties. Levendusky, however, said he is not convinced that this difference has any significant implications for November's presidential election. 

“Much as in 2016, I would expect [Pennsylvania] to be hotly contested, and both parties will push their voters to the polls, whether in person or through the mail," he said.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Penn Leads the Vote Director and rising College junior Harrison Feinman said PLTV estimates that approximately 706 Penn students voted in the primary. For comparison, in April 2012, the last re-election of a presidential candidate primary, Penn Leads the Vote estimated that approximately 130 students voted. Their estimations are based on turnout data for the areas Penn's dorms are located in.

Penn Democrats Political Director and rising College junior Michael Nevett added he is pleased with the popularity of mail-in ballots, particularly among Philadelphia’s Democrats. Philadelphia voters requested more mail-in ballots this year than the entire state of Pennsylvania in 2016. “We’re really excited to move on to November and turn Pennsylvania blue for 2020," Nevett said.

Feinman added that students should request their mail-in ballots as early as possible to ensure that they will receive them in time to cast their votes in November for the presidential election.

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