Student Voter Guide for Pennsylvania’s 2018 Primary Election

Why primaries matter

Primary elections determine which candidates will appear on the November ballot for each of the two major political parties, and sometimes for third parties. So they’re your prime chance to choose the eventual candidates. Even if your first choice doesn’t win, your votes can also influence the stands of the candidates who do.

Primaries replaced a system where candidates were chosen by party leaders or participants in party caucuses. They more accurately reflect our democracy by letting the general public select the candidates.

The Importance of Mid-Terms

In November 2018, voters will participate in a mid-term election, or one held between presidential-election years. Mid-term elections can be an important opportunity to express support or dissatisfaction with a president’s performance and policies. 2018 primaries will include candidate nominations for 34 U.S. Senate seats, all 435 U.S. Representative seats, plus governors, other statewide officials, and state legislative seats.

Who can vote in a primary election?


You are eligible to vote in Pennsylvania if you are a U.S. citizen, a resident of Pennsylvania (includes out of state college students), live in the precinct where you vote for at least 30 days prior to the election, and are at least 18 years old by election day. Lawful permanent residents, commonly referred to as “green card holders” are not eligible to vote.

ID Requirements for registering – provide one of the following:

  • Pennsylvania ID number
  • Pennsylvania driver’s license number
  • The last four digits of your social security number

ID requirements for voting

  • Pennsylvania driver’s license
  • Student ID
  • Passport
  • An alternative ID from the list on your state election website

How to register

In Pennsylvania you can register by mail, in person at your election office, or online. See Key Resources in the right sidebar of this page for online access to registration forms.

Absentee ballots

Voters are eligible to vote by absentee ballot if they will be away from Pennsylvania at the time of the election due to occupation, which includes students.  Applications for absentee ballots must be received by your County Election Office by 5:00 p.m. on May 8 (Postmarks are not sufficient, and USPS recommends allowing several days for mailing.)

Address to use for registering & voting

Per federal election law, college students can register and vote at either their campus address or their permanent home address, which may be out of state.   However, voters can only be registered at one address. If you are not going to physically be in the state where you plan to vote, you will need to request an absentee ballot.

It’s your choice where to register, since registering at your campus address will not:

  • Affect your federal financial aid
  • Prevent your parents from claiming you as a dependent on their taxes
  • Cost you any scholarships, unless they’re tied to specific residency requirements
  • Or affect your tuition status as an in-state or out-of-state student.

Additional information

For more detailed student voting guides, visit Campus Vote Project





  • April 16: Registration
  • May 8: Absentee ballot request received by your County Election Office
  • May 11: Absentee ballot returned to your County Election Office
  • May 15: Primary Election



  • Closed primary: Voter must be a registered and enrolled in a political party to vote in that party’s primary.