By Kathie Mitchell, Community Support Journal Editor
The 2023 PA Municipal Primary Election is May 16, 2023. This year’s election is called a municipal election because there are no federal or state offices on the
ballot. It’s often considered by many as an “off year” because we aren’t electing a President, a governor or state legislators. But there are some judicial races on the ballot like the State Supreme Court where future court rulings can have dramatic effects on lives of our citizens. Also, in our local communities, individuals elected at this level often rise to higher levels of government. And, local officers, like county commissioners, school board members and municipal officials, can have a direct impact on our communities and everyday lives through budgets, policies and court decisions.
Pennsylvania is one of the few states in the country that has a closed, partisan primary meaning that only Republicans and Democrats will be on the ballot and registered voters can only vote on the ballot of their parties. Independent voters or citizens who are not registered, cannot vote in primaries. In some cases, candidates are often selected in the primaries, if the race is not contested by the opposing party.
If you wish to vote by mail, it’s important to request a mail ballot by May 9, 2023. You can request a mail ballot here. Learn more: vote.pa.gov/MailBallot . For the list of municipal primary races in Montgomery County, PA, go here.
What do these officials do?
From Spotlight PA—April 13, 2023
Some candidates are running for specialized municipal or countywide positions such as tax collector, controller, coroner, and register of wills, who issue marriage licenses. They serve four-year terms.
Also on the ballot will be the many executive and legislative branch officials of local governments, including school board members, mayors, county commissioners, and in Allegheny County, the county executive. They set and enact a range of policies, from local property tax rates to zoning rules to police budgets.
Finally, candidates are running for positions that influence the criminal justice system, including constables, local judges, and district attorneys. Among other duties, the latter are responsible for prosecuting people who are arrested.
Local judgeships fall into two main categories. Magisterial district judges, sometimes called the “frontline” of the state’s justice system, issue arrest and search warrants, approve protection from abuse orders, oversee evictions, set bail, and can officiate weddings.
Candidates do not have to be lawyers to hold the position; however, those elected are required to take four weeks of training and pass an exam. They are elected to six-year terms, and face an opponent for reelection rather than a yes-or-no vote.
This system is different in Philadelphia, where voters elect municipal and traffic judges.
Then, there are Common Pleas judges who are elected by district, of which there are 60. Some districts contain multiple counties. You can find a full list of counties by judicial district here.
These judges must be admitted to the state bar and are the first rung in most civil and criminal trials. They serve 10-year terms before running in nonpartisan retention elections.
Thirty counties have an open Common Pleas judgeship on the ballot this year, according to Pennsylvania Department of State records.