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Guest Opinion

Primer on the PA Primary


Pennsylvania’s primary election will be Tuesday, April 23. The purpose of a primary election is to decide which candidates will represent each of the two main political parties in the November general election.

In the 2024 Pennsylvania Primary, the race for President is no longer contested. The PA Primary occurs late in the season and it’s clear from the already-completed primaries that the Presidential contest will be between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

However, the race for U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania is contested. There are also contested races for PA Attorney General, PA Auditor General, and PA Treasurer.

There are no state senators running in Bucks County this year, and no members of the PA House of Representatives from Bucks County have primary challengers.

Pennsylvania is one of only nine states that has a closed primary. This means that only people currently registered in one of the two main political parties are allowed to vote in that party’s primary. Independent voters and those registered with a third party are disenfranchised.

The argument for closed primaries is that only voters who identify with a particular party should have a say in who will represent that party. The argument for open primaries is that every registered voter should have a say in the screening process that determines which candidates run in the November election. The League of Women Voters and BallotPA, as well as many legislators, support open primaries.

To a great extent, only people heavily involved in party politics vote in primaries (i.e. hyper-partisans). In the last 10 general primaries in Bucks County, the range of turnout was from 13% to 41%, with an average turnout of 25%. (Source: It is telling that, on average, over 10 primary elections, only one out of four politically affiliated voters bothered to vote.

This begs the question — why does one commit to a particular political party, but not help that party select its candidates?

As of Nov. 29, 2023, 42% of the registered voters of Bucks County are Democratic; 41% are Republican; 17% are other (Source:

So, both the Democratic and Republican candidates in Bucks County are selected by approximately 10% of the politically affiliated registered voters (1/4 of 40%).

Note the two problems here: (1) The closed primary disenfranchises almost 1/5 of the registered voters. (2) Only ¼ of those eligible to vote in their respective primaries actually vote.

If you are an unaffiliated registered voter and you want to have a say in Pennsylvania’s upcoming primary, you need to change your registration (by April 8) to one of the major parties. You can re-register as Independent following the primary.

While this may seem disingenuous, this is the only way you can have a say in who will be on the ballot in the upcoming extremely contentious general election in November.

If you are a registered Republican or Democrat, you need to let your choices be known to your party, by voting in the primary. “Talk the talk, walk the walk.”

When you vote, you will complete the ballot for whichever party you are registered in. You will have the option of providing a write-in candidate if you cannot support the listed candidate(s). Or, you can write in “uncommitted.”

While write-ins will likely not impact which candidate gets the most votes for a given position, you will have spoken. “We the People.”

To register to vote or to change your registration, go to

Take action. Your vote matters. Elections have consequences.

Cathy Morano is a member of the League of Women Voters of Bucks County, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to providing voter education and services and advocating for issues. It envisions a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate.

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