A Collegiette's Guide to Voter Registration in PA

For many collegiettes, the upcoming Presidential Primary Elections will be the first big election that we have the opportunity to vote in. However, many students don’t vote because they have not yet registered to vote. Many students are confused as to how to register, where they can register, or even when they can vote.

Luckily, registering to vote is a lot simpler than you may think! Here is a guide with everything you need to know about registering to vote in the state of Pennsylvania as a college student:

1.  Registration Eligibility

Everyone knows you must be 18 years old to actually vote. However, if you’re only 17 but still wish to register to vote, you may do so as long as you turn 18 by the next election.

If you are not originally from this country, you must be a citizen for at least one month before the next election. If you’re already a citizen, you must have been a resident of Pennsylvania and the election district you want to vote and register in for at least 30 days prior to the next election.

For a complete guide on voter eligibility, click here.

2. You can vote where you go to school

You don’t have to register to vote in the county where your permanent home address is! For example, if your hometown is in Dauphin County, but you go to school in Allegheny County, you are able to register as a voter in Allegheny County.

If you’re already registered to vote at home, but have moved away to school, you have a few different options –

  • You can apply to fill out an absentee ballot. With an absentee ballot, you are able to vote in your home county without having to travel back to the actual polling place.  Before you can submit an absentee ballot, you’ll need to take three steps. First, make sure you’re registered to vote.  Secondly, fill out an Absentee Ballot Application. Lastly, take that application and send it to your County Election Office. Not sure where that is? Click here and search your home county to find the address. Here is more information on voting via Absentee Ballot.
  • You may change your voter registration. If you wish to do this, you must do so at least 30 days before the next upcoming election. Give yourself extra time to submit this form if you’re sending it by snail mail, so you are ensured it arrives on time. For Voters Who Have Moved less than 30 days before the next election, or have moved later than 30 days but have not yet changed your voter registration, you have to vote at your old polling place, and notify the Election Officials of your change of address.

3.  The Actual Process of Registering

As an eligible voter in Pennsylvania, you have a few different options as to how you register. You can print out the PDF form and send it in by mail, you can stop in at qualifying government agencies or even fill it out online (which many students find to be the quickest, easiest method of registering). Keep an eye out on campus too – many schools will have forms available during events (that’s how I registered!). For a complete list of information on how to register (including a list of government agencies you can register at), click here. To access the online voter registration form, click here. When you’re registering, you’ll need either your last four digits of your social security number, or your complete drivers license number. So if you’re not sure what either one of those are, make sure to get that information before you go to register!

4. The Primary Elections

As previously stated, the Presidential Primary Elections (set to be held in Spring 2016) are the next major elections we have the chance to vote in. There are two kinds of elections – primary, and general.

What’s the difference between a primary and general election?

A general election is an election in which it is determined which candidates will occupy the office that is up for election.  A primary election is where candidates for each specific political party are selected to run in the general election. For example, before Barack Obama became the Democratic Presidential Candidate in 2008 and 2012, he had to run against other democrats who also wished to run for President. Obama had the most votes in the Primary Election, so he was the one who was allowed to run for President in the General Election.

Pennsylvania holds “Closed Primary Elections.” That means, in order to vote for a candidate, you must be registered to vote in their specific political party, you cannot vote for anyone outside of your registered party. So for those of you who want to vote for Bernie Sanders, register democrat!

5. Identification

First time voters are required to bring a valid form of identification and present it at the polling place. You may bring any valid form of photo, or non-photo ID. For a complete list of accepted forms of ID, go here.

So there you have it collegiettes! Registering to vote is not as complicated as you may think. The last day to register to vote for the next election Pennsylvania will hold is October 5th, 2015. So register today!

For information on everything about voting in Pennsylvania, visit www.votespa.com!