PUMP and ULYP’s Guide to the PA Primary Election on May 18, 2021

Katie Phillips Access to Health + Wellness, Active + Engaged Residents, Advocacy, Diverse + Connected Region, Featured Advocacy, General, Opportunities for Success

PUMP and ULYP (Urban League Young Professionals Greater Pittsburgh) have teamed up to create a voter guide to prepare Pittsburgh-area voters for the Pennsylvania Primary Election. This guide has everything you need to know to get informed, get involved, and vote in the May 18, 2021 election.

In 2021, voters will decide on important local races including a Pittsburgh Mayoral race, three Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Directors elections, a Pittsburgh ballot initiative for Breonna’s Law, an Allegheny County ballot initiative for Allegheny County Jail reform, judicial races, and more.

Voter turnout tends to be down significantly in years without a Presidential Election or mid-term elections – but the races on the ballot in 2021 will have a direct and significant impact on our communities. It is just as important as ever to make your voice heard this year.

How to Vote: Dates, Deadlines, and Details

Key Dates:
  • Voter Registration Deadline – May 3, 2021
  • Mail-in Ballot Application Deadline – May 11, 2021
  • ELECTION DAY – May 18, 2021
    • Voted mail-in ballots must be received by the County Board of Elections by 8 PM
Register to Vote:
Vote by Mail:

All Pennsylvania voters can vote by mail. Voting by mail is safe, secure, and easy.

  • Apply for a mail-in ballot by Tuesday, May 11, 2021 (applications must by RECEIVED – not post-marked – by the county election office by 5 PM)
    • Apply in-person at the County Elections Office
    • Apply online here if you have a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license or PennDOT photo I.D.
    • Apply by mail
    • Fill out your ballot and follow all instructions to ensure it will be counted
    • Return your completed ballot in-person or by mail by 8 PM on Election Day (May 18)
    • Track the status of your ballot
Vote in Person on Election Day – Tuesday, May 18
Know Your Rights as a Voter

What’s on the Ballot: Learn about Key Races, Meet the Candidates, and More

Vote School Board First!: PPS Districts 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9

Vote School Board First! is a coalition led by A+ Schools that includes dozens of organizations, including PUMP. In Pittsburgh and around the Commonwealth voters will have a chance to select volunteers to serve on their local school boards. Pittsburgh School Board Directors oversee a budget larger than the City of Pittsburgh’s operating budget and make key decisions that affect PPS students, families, and teachers. Racial gaps in opportunities for Pittsburgh children persist, as evidenced by inequitable educational outcomes, school suspension rates, AP course availability rates, and more.

But despite the importance of these elections, only 1 in 5 registered voters cast votes for school board.

Kids can’t vote, but you can. Kids in our community depend on us to be informed voters. That’s why we’re asking YOU to Vote School Board First.

Pittsburgh voters will vote in the primary elections for school board districts 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9:

Pittsburgh Mayoral Race

Four candidates are vying for Pittsburgh Mayor. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is up for re-election in 2021 for a third term and is being challenged in the primary by State Representative Ed Gainey, Tony Moreno, and Michael Thompson.

Pittsburgh City Council: Districts 2, 4, 6, and 8

Pittsburgh City Councilors for Districts 2, 4, 6, and 8 are all up for re-election. In District 2, City Councilperson Theresa Kail-Smith is being challenged by Jacob Williamson. In District 4, City Councilperson Anthony Coghill is being challenged by Bethani Cameron.

Councilperson R. Daniel Lavelle (District 6) and Councilperson Erika Strassburger (District 8) are running for re-election unopposed.

Judicial Elections

Voters will have the opportunity to cast their ballot for a variety of elected judicial positions, including the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas. There is also one seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, currently held by Justice Thomas Saylor (R) that is up for re-election in 2021. PA voters will elect a new justice for a 10-year term in the November general election.

Pittsburgh Voters: Ballot Question – “Breonna’s Law”

The Alliance for Police Accountability (APA) is leading a push to pass “Breonna’s Law” in Pittsburgh through a ballot referendum that will appear on Pittsburgh voters’ ballots in the primary election. “Breonna’s Law” would ban no-knock warrants, the kind of warrant that led to Louisville police shooting and killing Breonna Taylor in March 2020.

Allegheny County Voters: Ballot Question – ACJ Reform

The Alliance for Police Accountability (APA) is leading a push to end the use of solitary confinement at Allegheny County Jail through a ballot referendum that will appear on Allegheny County voters’ ballots in the primary election.

All Voters: Statewide Ballot Initiatives
  1. Statewide Referendum – Making Municipal Fire and Emergency Medical Services Companies Eligible for Loans
  2. Constitutional Amendment – Relating to Termination or Extension of Disaster Emergency Declarations
  3. Constitutional Amendment – Disaster Emergency Declaration and Management
  4. Constitutional Amendment – Prohibition Against Denial or Abridgement of Equality of Rights Because of Race or Ethnicity
Candidate Forums, Debates, Voter Guides, and Other Civic Engagement Events:

Pittsburgh City Council

Pittsburgh School Board

Mayor – City of Pittsburgh

Get out the Vote in Your Community


Meet ULYP: ULYP Greater Pittsburgh, one of sixty-four chapters of the National Urban League Young Professionals (NULYP), is a volunteer auxiliary of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. ULYP’s purpose is to assemble Pittsburgh area professionals between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-nine committed to serving the region through activities that support the National Urban League’s Empowerment Goals. NUL launched I AM EMPOWERED, an initiative focusing on four aspirational goals for empowering communities to achieve in education, employment, housing, and healthcare, the cornerstones of our approach.

Meet PUMP: PUMP’s mission is to make Pittsburgh the most dynamic and diverse place by engaging, educating, and mobilizing all young people to create change in our community. Each year, we serve nearly 30,000 individuals, primarily under the age of 40, through our advocacy, civic, social, and recreational programming.

We will be updating this post through the primary election on May 18, 2021. If you know of an event or resource that should be included, please email katie@pump.org.