By A. B. Hill

Tuesday, May 18, is primary election day in Pennsylvania.

* What is a primary election?

A primary election is the preliminary step in the process of electing a candidate running for office. Voters cast ballots in the primary to choose their party’s nominees to run in the general election. Pennsylvania is a primary state.

* Who can vote in the primary?

Pennsylvania’s primary election is closed, meaning only registered members can vote for their political party’s candidate (for example, registered Republicans do not vote in the Democratic primary; third party voters cannot vote unless a candidate from their own party is on the ballot; voters who are registered as Independents do not vote at all in primaries).

You do not have to join a political party to vote or to be a candidate for public office. Every registered voter may cast a ballot in the general election.

* Who is running in Pennsylvania’s primary this year?

Statewide, Pennsylvanians will elect a U.S. senator, governor and lieutenant governor. Locally, they will elect members of congress, state representatives and half of the state senate.

* Where can I learn about the candidates’ positions on important issues?

As part of a broad effort to educate people about candidates and their positions on issues important to Catholic voters, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) sent a questionnaire to candidates for statewide office to give them the opportunity to make their positions known on key specific issues. The PCC publishes the answers they provide for educational purposes only; the PCC does not endorse candidates for political office. Questionnaire responses are posted online at and on pages 18-24 in this issue.

Most candidates have an official campaign web site that contains information about their views and opinions on many issues. Researching candidates for public office is an important way for voters to inform their conscience before deciding whom to support.

* Why vote in the Pennsylvania primary election?

The issues facing Pennsylvania now and in the coming years present serious moral, ethical and social justice questions. As faithful citizens, it is important to ask ourselves, what are we doing about these questions and concerns? How do we fairly share our blessings and confront the challenges we face? What kind of nation or Commonwealth do we want? What kind of world do we want to help shape? Who will lead our government in pursuing these ends?

The primary election is the first step in the electoral process. To steer Pennsylvania in the right direction, we must start by voting in the primary with an educated and informed conscience.

* Where can I get more information about my polling place?

Details about absentee ballot applications, polling place locations and demonstrations of how to use local voting systems are found online at

Hill is Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.