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Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

As we approach the end of an unprecedented academic year, students have much more to think about than politics. Still, it is important that students bring their enthusiasm from this fall to the present and vote on May 18, 2021 in the local Philadelphia primary election. Even though the election will occur after finals and commencement, Penn students must still make their voices heard. 

As Penn Leads the Vote has written about before, local elections are extremely important. Many decisions that affect people’s lives are made by local government officials, including on issues that are important to many students. Students can have an impact on the criminal justice system by voting for both district attorney and local judges. Students can have an impact on Philadelphia’s finances by voting for city controller. And students can have an impact on ensuring smooth elections by voting for local election officers.

In addition to these local offices, there are also a few elections on the ballot with state-wide implications. There is an election for a judgeship on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and four ballot measures, including one that prohibits denying or abridging rights on account of race. Even though students may not be voting for federal officials this May, they can still make a collective impact in shaping the future of their state and local government. 

As we reach the end of the academic year, Penn’s Year of Civic Engagement is also coming to a close. During this academic year, students have been encouraged to reflect on their engagement with Penn and West Philadelphia and seek out opportunities to be more active members of the community. Voting is a critical way that individuals can be active members of their community, which makes high turnout among Penn students in Philadelphia’s local election this May a fitting way to end this Year of Civic Engagement. High turnout among Penn students this May would demonstrate the importance of voting and civic engagement to students and that the spirit of the Year of Civic Engagement will continue into 2021 and beyond.

For students currently living either on-campus or off-campus and planning to leave the Philadelphia area before May 18, voting by mail is a good option to make sure that you can still participate in this election. Mail-in voting is also ideal for students who will be busy with finals and would benefit from the convenience of having a ballot sent directly to their address. Students can request a mail-in ballot by clicking here. For students who will still be in the Philadelphia area and prefer to vote in person, click here to find your polling location for Election Day.

We know that the end of the semester can be stressful. Penn Leads the Vote wants to make sure that Penn students can cast their vote as easily and conveniently as possible. We are available to help with any and every voting-related question or concern. We can be reached via email at Students are also encouraged to visit our website for customized voter information and resources, and they can click here to learn more about Philadelphia local elections. Penn students, let’s show our resilience, our engagement, and a commitment to a better tomorrow for Philadelphia by making our voices heard this May.

PENN LEADS THE VOTE is the University’s non-partisan election hub. Visit for more information.