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Everything you need to know about voting in Pa.’s May 2022 primary election

Here’s what to know about the May 17 primary election and how to make your voice heard, whether you’re planning to vote in person or by mail.

How to I check if my ballot arrived? Do I get a sticker? And more of your voting questions, answered.
How to I check if my ballot arrived? Do I get a sticker? And more of your voting questions, answered.Read moreCynthia Greer

It’s election time again in Pennsylvania.

The 2022 Pennsylvania primary election will be held May 17, and in the weeks before as voters cast ballots by mail. Parties are nominating candidates for U.S. Senate, governor, U.S. House, and state legislative seats.

The Senate race is one of the most crucial in the country. Especially in this election, because of new congressional and state legislative maps that will shape power and politics in your community for the next decade. This race will help decide which party controls the chamber after the November midterm elections — and the fate of President Joe Biden’s agenda in the second half of his term. Pennsylvanians will also elect a new governor, who will have a huge impact on the direction the state takes on economic issues, as well abortion, voting laws, and more.

Here’s what to know about the elections and how to make your voice heard, whether you’re planning to vote in person or by mail.

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Why should I vote?

You are not legally obligated to vote, but that doesn’t change the fact that whoever is elected to office will impact your life. Every vote counts.

Why should you care about the primary?

Primaries give voters the chance to choose who will run in November’s general election. In Pennsylvania, you can only vote in a party’s primary election if you are registered to vote with that party — not if you are registered as an independent.

This election is especially important because the governor’s race and the race for one of Pennsylvania’s two U.S Senate seats are open, meaning there are no incumbents running.

How do I check my registration status?

💻 You can check your voter registration status on the state’s website by entering your name, zip code, and date of birth. If you have a license, or PennDot ID, you can use the number to find your status.

☎️ You can also call VOTESPA at 1-877-868-3772, or check your county’s election officials. For Philadelphia, call 215-686-1590.

May 2: Deadline to register to vote
May 10, 5 p.m.: Last day to request mail and absentee ballots
May 17, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.: Primary election
May 17, 8 p.m.: Deadline to your county election office to receive your mail ballots

When is the primary?

📅 The primary election is on Tuesday, May 17.

When are the polls open?

🕖 Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on May 17. As long as you are in line by 8 p.m., you’ll be able to vote.

Where is my polling place?

💻 If you’re planning to vote in person on May 17, find your polling place on the Department of State’s website by entering your county, city, and street. If you live in Philly, enter your address in the local lookup tool.

How do I return my mail ballot?

📅 Completed ballots have to be received by (not postmarked by) your county elections office by 8 p.m. on May 17. Be sure to mail in your ballot with enough time for it to be received by 8 p.m. on May 17.

🚶 You can also hand-deliver ballots to your county elections office.

📮 In Philadelphia, there are 16 drop boxes across the city for you to return your mail ballot.

Do I have to do anything special before dropping off my mail ballot?

Yes. It is very important that you seal your ballot in the smaller, inner “secrecy envelope” (which is marked as “Official Election Ballot”). Put that envelope in the outer return envelope and make sure to sign and date the voter’s declaration on the outer envelope.

What is a naked ballot?

A naked ballot is a mail ballot that a voter submits without the inner “secrecy envelope.” If you’re going the mail ballot route, it’s important that you make sure you’re sending the ballot back properly. Naked ballots will be disqualified.

How do I check the status of my ballot?

��� You can check on the status of your mail ballot on the Department of State’s website by entering your name, date of birth, and county.

Who’s on the ballot in Pennsylvania?

U.S. Senate primary

Every state has two seats in the U.S. Senate. Besides passing legislation, senators confirm or reject presidential nominations for Justices of the Supreme Court, federal judges, cabinet officers, and more. Since 2021, the Senate has been evenly split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast a tie-breaking vote for Democrats. Senate terms are for six years. In 2022, 34 of the 100 seats are up, 14 of them currently held by Democrats and 21 held by Republicans.

In Pennsylvania, the seat currently held by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who is not running for reelection, is up for grabs. Since Pennsylvania is a key swing state — and one that helped Joe Biden secure the presidency — this is a race to watch.


  1. John Fetterman was a long shot when he first ran for Senate in 2016 as the mayor of Braddock. Now he’s lieutenant governor and the Democratic front-runner, thanks to a statewide win in 2018, a fervent progressive following, and massive fund-raising. With his 6-foot-8 frame, Carhartt black hoodie, and gym shorts, Fetterman doesn’t look like a typical politician, and some Democrats hope he can appeal to white working-class voters who backed Donald Trump. Others fear he’s too liberal for a politically divided state. 🌐

  2. Malcolm Kenyatta is a state representative from North Philadelphia who has built a political following with his personal story and potential to make history. He represents a small slice of the city that provides the foundation of Democratic support in Pennsylvania, and would be the state’s first Black and first openly gay senator. But his fund-raising has lagged, amplifying questions about whether he can win such a big race. 🌐

  3. Alex Khalil is a former delegate for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and a current member of the Jenkintown Borough Council. She’s a longtime Democratic activist in Montgomery County, with a background in information technology and small-business consulting. Khalil is the only woman running in the Democratic primary since Val Arkoosh dropped out. She is relatively unknown in the race and has perhaps the steepest climb. 🌐

  4. Conor Lamb is a congressman from the Pittsburgh suburbs. Having won three tough House races in conservative-leaning districts, Lamb is running as the candidate who can recreate the coalition that Joe Biden won in Pennsylvania. Supporters believe his moderate profile fits the state’s delicately balanced politics and that he has an ability to appeal to a wide swath of Pennsylvania voters. But the same stances that helped him before may draw sharp criticism from progressives who play a major role in Democratic primaries. And he’s lagged far behind Fetterman in fund-raising and the polls. 🌐


  1. Kathy Barnette is a commentator who has appeared on right-wing cable news and wrote a book about being a Black conservative. Barnette took an unusual path to the Senate campaign. She lost a long-shot bid for U.S. House in 2020, but made waves by pursuing baseless election conspiracies in her own race and backing Trump’s lies of a stolen presidential election. She impressed some party leaders with her vigorous campaigning and surprisingly strong early fund-raising. She’d be Pennsylvania’s first Black woman elected statewide, but has to show she can appeal to a wider audience than Fox & Friends. 🌐

  2. Jeff Bartos is a Main Line real estate developer with ties to some of the party’s top establishment and business-friendly figures. Bartos was the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018. He lost, but drew some praise for his genial approach to politics. After creating a nonprofit to aid small businesses during the pandemic, Bartos is back on the ballot, this time with some sharper rhetoric. But critics wonder whether the wealthy developer can excite GOP voters. 🌐

  3. George Bochetto is running after a long legal career that has often drawn him into battles over cultural flash points. Most recently, Bochetto has defended the Christopher Columbus statue in South Philly and filed a lawsuit accusing Mayor Jim Kenney of discriminating against Italian Americans, in part by changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. Bochetto entered the race after most candidates had already spent heavily on TV or spent months campaigning. 🌐

  4. Sean Gale is part of a pair of Montgomery County brothers who focus much of their fire on their own party’s establishment. Gale, an attorney, is running for Senate while his brother, Joe Gale, runs for governor. Sean Gale’s campaign website mostly focuses not on criticizing Democrats or President Joe Biden, but on incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who he blasts for not being conservative enough. Despite joining the race early last year, Sean Gale raised less than $35,000 for his campaign in 2021, underscoring the long-shot nature of his bid. 🌐

  5. David McCormick has long traveled in elite financial and political circles, most recently leading the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates. He served as a high-ranking Treasury official in President George W. Bush’s administration and previously ran other businesses in Pittsburgh. McCormick is using his background as a West Point graduate, and Army veteran as the backbone of his Republican campaign for U.S. Senate. He’s one of the GOP front-runners in his first bid for elected office. McCormick has support from a range of longtime Pennsylvania Republican insiders, as well as several major figures from the Trump administration, in which his wife, Dina Powell McCormick, served as a top national security aide. McCormick has spent more than $7 million of his own money on his campaign. 🌐

  6. Mehmet Oz is best known as the TV celebrity “Dr. Oz” after rising to fame with help from Oprah — but he jumped into electoral politics when he launched a Senate campaign late last year. Now the cardiothoracic surgeon is running as a self-described “conservative outsider,” much in the mold of former President Donald Trump, banking on his name recognition and personal wealth to power his campaign as one of the Republican front-runners in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race. He’s even won Trump’s endorsement in the GOP primary, cementing his status as one of the top Republican candidates. If elected, Oz would be the first Muslim to serve in the Senate. 🌐

  7. Carla Sands was a chiropractor, actress, and later the U.S. ambassador to Denmark under President Donald Trump. She served on his 2016 campaign’s economic advisory council, hosted a major Trump fund-raiser at her Bel Air home, and gave more than $460,000 combined to his campaign and inaugural committees in 2016 and 2020. She had never held public office or run for election before the Trump administration. But Sands is aiming to use her connections to the former president to sway GOP primary voters and try to land a seat in the U.S. Senate. She would be the first woman elected to the Senate from Pennsylvania. 🌐

Jonathan Tamari


The governor is the highest-ranking official in state government. The governor enforces laws, signs or vetoes bills, oversees the Pennsylvania National Guard, and can call for special sessions of the state legislature. The governor can issue executive orders that impact things like health care and education.

The governor is elected every four years, and can serve two, four-year terms Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, cannot seek reelection because of term limits.

This race is important, because for almost seven years, the balance of power in Harrisburg has been divided between a Republican-controlled General Assembly and a Democratic governor. If Republicans win back the governor’s mansion and retain the legislature, they’ll be able to enact policies like restricting abortion access, changing election laws, increasing energy production, and promoting alternatives to traditional public schools. With the GOP likely to keep the legislature, Democrats see the race as their best chance to maintain a check on Republican policies.


  1. Josh Shapiro is the only Democrat running for governor. Shapiro is serving his second term as Pennsylvania attorney general. First elected in 2016, he gained prominence when he released a grand jury report on the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal. He won a settlement in a major wage theft case and helped resolve a dispute between two Western Pennsylvania health-care giants he said had left patients excluded from a major hospital network. Earlier in his career, Shapiro was chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners and a state representative. He won his first legislative race in 2004. 🌐


  1. Lou Barletta made his name in politics as an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration while serving as mayor of Hazleton, in Northeastern Pennsylvania. As a congressman, he became a high-profile supporter of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. That alliance helped him glide to the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2018. He lost big in the general election, but is now betting that his pro-Trump credentials, political experience, and name recognition will help him win another statewide primary. 🌐

  2. Jake Corman has served in the state Senate for more than two decades, representing the district his father once served. This year, he became the highest-ranking member of the Senate — president pro tempore — and before that was the majority leader. Those leadership roles have helped elevate his profile in Harrisburg and cultivate relationships with donors. He has a long record of public service, strong establishment ties, is known and often liked by other party leaders, and strikes reliably conservative stances on issues like education and energy. 🌐

  3. Joe Gale has been running against the GOP establishment for years. He’s served on the majority-Democratic Montgomery County Board of Commissioners since 2016, after he beat the party’s endorsed candidate (the minority party automatically gets one seat on the three-member board). He drew protests in 2020 after calling Black Lives Matter a “hate group.”🌐

  4. Charlie Gerow is a veteran GOP strategist from Cumberland County, outside Harrisburg. Gerow started his political career working for Ronald Reagan and says he’s campaigning as a “conservative happy warrior” who can expand his party’s appeal. Prior to founding a public affairs firm in 2001, he ran unsuccessfully for local, state, and federal office. He cochaired Carly Fiorina’s 2016 presidential campaign. 🌐

  5. Melissa Hart was 28 when she became the first Republican woman elected to a full term in the state Senate. She then, became the first female Republican elected to federal office in Pennsylvania when she won a U.S. House seat in Western Pennsylvania. Hart’s been out of politics for the last 14 years, working as a lawyer and consultant. She’s now running to again make history: Pennsylvania has never had a female governor or senator, and Hart is the only woman in the race. 🌐

  6. Doug Mastriano went from political obscurity to contender for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in just a couple years. A retired Army colonel from rural Franklin County, Mastriano was elected to the state Senate in 2019, his first elected office. He started to gain a following among conservatives in 2020 as an opponent of Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions, then rose in prominence as he promoted Trump’s lies of a stolen election. Mastriano has won praise from Trump — no doubt an asset in the primary. But some Republicans think he’s too extreme to win a general election. 🌐

  7. Bill McSwain was a political newcomer in 2017 when Trump named him the top federal prosecutor in the Philadelphia region. McSwain often went after what he called a “culture of lawlessness” fostered by the city’s Democratic leaders. While plenty of Pennsylvania Republicans share that view, he’ll have to develop a broader message to win statewide. In early April, Trump denounced McSwain, calling him a “coward” for not doing more to investigate baseless claims of voter fraud. 🌐

  8. Dave White is a former Delaware County councilman who has close ties to building trades unions. A union steamfitter and owner of an HVAC company, White emphasizes his blue-collar roots — a profile that could help give him cross-party appeal in a general election. But to win a primary he’ll have to overcome potential skepticism from conservatives suspicious of organized labor. He’ll have at least one advantage over some of his rivals: money. White has put millions of his own cash into his campaign. 🌐

  9. Nche Zama is a cardiothoracic surgeon from Monroe County. He immigrated to the U.S. from Cameroon as a teenager with $20 in his pocket and has described how America gave him the opportunity to work hard and become a doctor. His personal story, he says, points to the importance of strong education and health-care systems. As a newcomer to politics, Zama’s biggest challenge is raising money and getting voters to know him. 🌐

Andrew Seidman

U.S House of Representatives primaries

With 435 members, and six nonvoting members, the House is one of two chambers, along with the Senate, that form the U.S. Congress. The speaker of the House is third in the line of succession, behind the president and vice president. Each state has a number of U.S. House seats proportional to its population. Since 2019, the House has been led by a Democratic majority.

Pennsylvania is going from 18 seats in the House to 17 after this election following the decennial redistricting process, because of slow population growth recorded by the census. Six of them are in the Philadelphia region, while three of them (the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th districts) include parts of Philadelphia:

District 1

  1. Ashley Ehasz (Democrat)

  2. Brian Fitzpatrick (Republican, incumbent)

  3. Alex Entin (Republican)

District 2

  1. Brendan Boyle (Democrat, incumbent)

  2. Aaron Bashir (Republican)

District 3

There are no Republicans candidates.

  1. Michael Cogbill (Democrat)

  2. Dwight Evans (Democrat, incumbent)

  3. Alexandra Hunt (Democrat)

  4. Melvin Prince Johnakin (Democrat)

District 4

  1. Madeleine Dean (Democrat, incumbent)

  2. Daniel Burton Jr. (Republican)

  3. Christian Nascimento (Republican)

District 5

  1. Mary Gay Scanlon (Democrat, incumbent)

  2. David Galluch (Republican)

District 6

  1. Chrissy Houlahan (Democrat, incumbent)

  2. Guy Ciarrocchi (Republican)

  3. Steve Fanelli (Republican)

  4. Regina Mauro (Republican)

  5. Ron Vogel (Republican)

Lieutenant Governor

The lieutenant governor is the governor’s second-in-command, and the job includes directing statewide emergency management policies, chairing the Board of Pardons, and presiding over the state Senate. Current Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is the front-runner in the Democratic Senate primary.


  1. Austin Davis grew up in Mon Valley, near Pittsburgh. He was the first to go to college in his family, majoring in political science. By 2018, he won a race to represent Allegheny County in the state House, becoming the first Black representative from his district and one of only four in the entire legislature representing majority-white districts. He now chairs the Allegheny County House Democratic Delegation and is a member of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, has endorsed Davis as his running mate. 🌐

  2. Brian Sims became the first openly gay person to be elected to the General Assembly in 2012. Sims has been a policy attorney and civil rights advocate, and served as staff counsel for policy and planning at the Philadelphia Bar Association. In 2016, he hit national headlines for writing an open letter to Senator Bob Casey asking for his support on marriage equality. 🌐

  3. Ray Sosa is a Puerto Rican native and Montgomery County banker. He became the first Latinx person to run for lieutenant governor during the 2018 election, losing to John Fetterman. 🌐


  1. John Brown has served as Northampton County Executive and mayor of Bangor. In 2016, he lost the race for state Auditor General to Democrat Eugene DePasquale. 🌐

  2. Jeff Coleman is the first Filipino-American to be elected to the state House. Besides running for lieutenant governor, Coleman is an author and runs a campaign strategy firm. 🌐

  3. Teddy Daniels is a far-right former police officer and decorated veteran. Daniels also served as the Northeast U.S. Director of Vets for Trump. Daniels also founded National Cannabis Security Services, a company dedicated to transporting and providing security for legal cannabis businesses. 🌐

  4. Carrie DelRosso surprised many in 2020 by unseating longtime Democratic State Rep. Frank Dermody. She represents parts of Allegheny County. 🌐

  5. Russ Diamond is serving his fourth term as state representative representing Lebanon County. The Hershey native has supported bills to limit who can qualify for mail voting and stop vaccine mandates. Diamond was one of the key players in limiting Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency COVID declaration powers. 🌐

  6. Chris Frye became New Castle’s first Black mayor in 2019. 🌐

  7. James Jones is a businessman and a U.S. Navy veteran. The Arkansas native served in the first Gulf War, and worked as a business strategist and HR professional before founding his own company, Silverback Commodities. Jones challenged U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans in 2016. 🌐

  8. Rick Saccone became a state representative in 2011, serving four terms representing Allegheny and Washington Counties. He has run unsuccessfully for U.S Senate and U.S. House. 🌐

  9. Clarice Schillinger is a Franklin County native who has worked in multiple public sector offices since 2015, including the state House. During the pandemic, she mobilized to elect school board officials who promised to keep schools open. 🌐

Ballot Questions

This year, voters in Philadelphia are asked to answer four ballot questions, two would result in immediate changes on how the city government functions and two would modify gendered language in the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter and related educational supplements.

Question 1
Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to revise the composition of the Zoning Board of Adjustment by increasing the number of mayoral appointees from five to seven; by requiring Council confirmation of the mayor’s appointments; and by specifying qualifications that appointees must possess, including a demonstrated sensitivity to community concerns regarding development and the protection of the character of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods?

If you’ve ever applied to the Department of Licenses and Inspections for a zoning permit, and they denied or referred you, the Zoning Board of Adjustment would be your next step. Currently, the board is made up of five people, appointed by the mayor, who do not need to have any specific qualifications to be there.

If approved, the number of board members would increase to seven, including an urban planner, an architect, a lawyer with zoning experience, a person with experience in the construction industry, and at least two community leaders. The mayor can still suggest people, but City Council would have to agree to members before they are appointed.

Question 2
Should The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to remove all gender based references?

The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter sets the powers, functions, and responsibilities of those in government. Right now, the language assumes that mostly everyone in power is a man, or generally cisgender (except for Council members, whose titles became gender neutral in 2019).

If approved, all gender references would be gender neutral, meaning changes like “firefighters” instead of “firemen,” or “police officers” instead of “policemen.”

Question 3
Should the Educational Supplement to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to remove all gender-based references?

The city’s Home Rule Charter has a section setting rules for the school district and Board of Education. Currently, the supplement is written as though everyone in charge is a man.

If approved, all education related titles in the supplement would become gender neutral. So the superintendent, president of the Board of Education, and school auditor would no longer be referred to as “he/him.”

Question 4
Should the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to establish the Fair Housing Commission as an independent commission to administer and enforce statutes and ordinances concerning unfair rental practices and certain other matters concerning the landlord and tenant relationship and to adjudicate disputes related to such matters?

The Philadelphia Fair Housing Commission administers and enforces laws related to unfair rental practices and other issues affecting landlords and tenants. Even though it’s been around since 1962, it’s not technically part of the City’s Home Rule Charter and could potentially be removed.

If approved, the commission would become permanent.

This article contains information from the State Department of State, Philadelphia Commissioners Office. Staff writers Julia Terruso, Jonathan Lai, and Patricia Madej contributed reporting.