What's the difference between primary and general elections?

Signs lead voters into the polling location at Doraville City Hall for the special election of Georgia's 6th Congressional District on June 20, 2017 in Doraville, Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Voters in Pennsylvania have two important dates to remember: primaries in the spring and general Election Day in the fall.

Primaries are intended to select the candidate each political party will run in a given race for Election Day. For example, if three Republicans are all vying to be governor, the candidate who wins the Republican primary will be on the ballot for the party in the general election.

Pennsylvania holds closed primaries, meaning voters can only cast ballots for the candidates from the party for which they are registered. For example, registered Democrats can only vote for the Democratic candidates in the primaries.

However, all voters can vote on constitutional amendments, ballot questions, referenda and special elections that may be held at the same time as a primary.

All registered voters are allowed to vote in the general election. Also, they can vote for whoever they like, regardless of their registered party affiliation.

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Primary elections in Pennsylvania are held on the third Tuesday of May, except in the years of presidential elections, when they’re held on the fourth Tuesday of April. This year, it is Tuesday, May 15.

General elections are always held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This year, it is Tuesday, Nov. 6.