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Get ready to vote on May 16

As we approach the Municipal Primary election here in Philadelphia on May 16 — where voters will vote in primaries for Mayor, City Council, City Controller and more — be sure that you are ready to vote. Check out The Citizen’s voting guides here.


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Mystery Shopper: Registering to Vote in Pennsylvania

How hard is it for a first-time voter to register in PA? In the latest installment of our Mystery Shopper column, a Philly student finds out

Mystery Shopper: Registering to Vote in Pennsylvania

How hard is it for a first-time voter to register in PA? In the latest installment of our Mystery Shopper column, a Philly student finds out

When the 2022 midterm elections rolled around and the City of Philadelphia began posting ads requesting poll workers, I jumped at the first chance I got to sign-up. I was 17 at the time, unable to vote, and wanted to support the election from the sidelines.

Being a poll worker turned out to be an experience I’d highly recommend. It felt meaningful doing something to support the civic process — and to be honest, the $200 paycheck and endless snacks provided by my election board leader made my experience all the better.

So, after spending the day watching hundreds of Philadelphians cast their ballots — and thinking excitedly to when I, too, would be able to enter the voting booth and press ‘VOTE’ — I went to register to vote as soon as I was eligible (here in Philadelphia that’s the day when you will be 18 by the next election).

Here’s what registering to vote looks like as a first-time voter:

    1. I Googled “register to vote in PA” and headed to this page on the Pennsylvania state website. Here, you’ll find instructions in English, Chinese, and Spanish, as well as instructions on how to register online, by mail and in person.
    2. I clicked on the online voter registration application available here.
    3. I filled out the registration form indicating that my reason for registering was a new registration. I provided basic information including my name, date of birth, address, and my PennDot driver’s license number. If you don’t have a driver’s license number, you’ll need to input your Social Security number.
    4. I then declared a political party. An important note: To vote in a primary in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to either register with the Democratic or Republican party.
    5. I verified I wasn’t a robot — arguably the hardest part of this process was the CAPTCHA; we all know how those can be — and clicked submit!
    6. A minute later, I received an email from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania thanking me for registering and providing a link through which I could track the status of my application.
    7. Seven weeks later — which, according to my internet research, is pretty consistent across the country — I received an email informing me that my application had been approved. Ta-da! I was officially a registered voter.

Addendum: It’s important to note that for someone who may not have access to the internet at home, or may have a physical or mental impairment that prevents them from registering to vote online, this process most likely wouldn’t be as easy, nor as efficient. Other methods may require a trip to everyone’s favorite place, the DMV, or a longer waiting time due to mail processing.

Time spent: 7 minutes (plus 7 weeks waiting)

Result: I’m now registered to vote through a process that took less than 10 minutes of hands-on time.

Takeaway: Registering to vote online was shockingly easy. The website worked perfectly, the confirmation emails were informative, and my voter ID card arrived at my house within the expected timeframe. I helped friends register as well, and they had similar positive experiences. Go, Pennsylvania Voter Registration Office!

Lightning Bolt Rating (out of five):

Lead support for Every Voice, Every Vote is provided by the William Penn Foundation, with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others.


Photo courtesy KOMUnews / Flickr

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