From a step-by-step voting manual to a comprehensive "who's who" on the ballot, here's your guide to the 2021 primary election in Philadelphia.
Voters will cast their decisions for local races and for new judges to Pennsylvania’s three statewide appellate courts — some of the highest positions in state government that will affect policy for years to come.
Important deadlines to keep in mind:
The next election in Philadelphia will occur on May 18, 2021. The deadline to register to vote or update your registration status is May 3, and the deadline to request a mail-in ballot is May 11. If you’re unsure about your registration status, you can find that out here.
Polls are open on Election Day, May 18, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Students living in Kings Court English House, Lauder College House, Hill College House, Sansom Place West, Sansom Place East, and in off-campus apartment Domus can vote in Room 108 of the ARCH Building. Those living in Harnwell College House, Rodin College House, Harrison College House, Du Bois College House, the Quad, and Stouffer College House — as well as in Axis, The Radian, Chestnut Hall, Hamilton Court, and The Hub off-campus apartments — can vote in Houston Hall's Bodek Lounge. Residents of the Woodland Terrace neighborhood in University City can vote in Walnut Street West Library.
If you do not live in one of these locations, find your polling place here.
How to vote by mail:
May 11 is the last day to request a mail-in ballot, for which you can apply online with a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license or photo I.D., by mail — addressed to your county election office — or in person at your county election office.
You have to be registered as either a Democrat or Republican in Pennsylvania to be able to select the candidates who will run in the November general election.
Candidates on the ballot for the 2021 Primary:
Philadelphia district attorney: Vote for one
The district attorney serves as the chief prosecutor for the City of Philadelphia, and decides whether to bring criminal charges against arrested people, supervise and provide leadership of other legal clerks and associates, prosecute criminal cases in court, and determine the severity of the punishment of some crimes.
Justice of the Supreme Court: Vote for one
The Supreme Court, the highest judicial body within a jurisdiction's court system, has seven justices. Four judges are now running for one vacancy on this court, also known as a “court of last resort,” as it has the power to assume jurisdiction over any case in the state’s court system.
Judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania: Vote for one
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania, one of just two statewide intermediate appellate courts, serves as the appeals court for most citizens and businesses. The superior court includes 15 judges, each serving in their position for 10 years. There is currently one vacancy open in 2021.
Judge of the Commonwealth Court: Vote for no more than two
The Commonwealth Court, one of two statewide intermediate appellate courts, hears civil cases involving state or local government. It also hears appeals in certain cases involving constitutional challenges to a tax dispute or Pennsylvania law. There are currently two vacancies on the Commonwealth Court. Given this, voters can elect no more than two candidates to fill the vacancies.
Courts of Common Pleas: Vote for up to eight
There are eight vacancies on this court, which is organized into 60 judicial districts. The Courts of Common Pleas handles criminal and civil cases, including those that involve families and children, and appeals from minor courts, and holds civil, criminal, and jury trials.
There are 16 Democratic candidates running for the spot: Wendi Barish, Terri M. Booker, Rick Cataldi, Michele Hangley, Maurice Houston, Nick Kamau, Craig Levin, Cateria R. McCabe, Mark Moore, Patrick J. Moran, John R. Padova, Chris Hall, Daniel Sulman, Caroline Turner, Tamika Washington, Betsy Wahl.
Judge of the Municipal Court: Vote for no more than three
There are three vacancies on the Philadelphia Municipal Court, which is responsible for deciding if serious criminal cases go to the Court of Common Pleas, arranging preliminary arraignments and hearings, and setting and accepting bail, except in murder or voluntary manslaughter cases. Court cases include traffic tickets, landlord-tenant disputes, and underage drinking.
The Democratic candidates are: Michael Lambert, Barbara Thomson, George Twardy, and Gregory Yorgey-Girdy. There is no Republican on the ballot.
Philadelphia City Controller: Vote for one
The city controller serves as chief auditor of the City of Philadelphia and the School District of Philadelphia. The city controller, which functions independently of the mayor and City Council, is responsible for auditing municipal operations, investigating accusations of mismanagement and fraud by City affiliates, and certifying Philadelphia’s debt capacity.
Incumbent Rebecca Rhynhart (D), who is set to run unchallenged in the primary and in November's general election, was sworn in as the first woman ever elected city controller for the City of Philadelphia in 2018.
Rhynhart’s platform centers around restoring public trust in government and rooting out instances of corruption and fraud. Rhynhart pushed the City of Philadelphia to create a centralized unit to “receive, investigate and resolve” sexual misconduct cases in response to the office’s performance audit of sexual misconduct policies. She has also criticized city officials, including Mayor Jim Kenney, for their failure to properly plan for last summer’s wave of protests against police brutality that followed the murder of George Floyd.
Five ballot questions:
You can vote on five ballot questions in the 2021 primary, including three proposed constitutional amendments and one statewide referendum.
This year’s questions concern amendments to the Equal Rights Regardless of Race or Ethnicity Amendment, the Emergency Declarations Amendment, the Legislative Resolution to Extend or Terminate Emergency Declaration Amendment, and a referendum on the Municipal Fire and EMS Services Loans Measure. There will also be a question to amend Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter.