Nomination battles for mayor in several Pennsylvania cities and an open seat on a state appellate court are expected to be settled in a statewide primary.
But the most closely watched local race on Tuesday is the three-way Democratic primary for Philadelphia city controller.
Also up for grabs are contested mayoral nominations in Pittsburgh, Scranton, Harrisburg and York; and the competition for a Democratic nomination to Superior Court.
The balloting is mostly limited to Democratic and Republican voters, who will choose party nominees for the Nov. 5 general election. Political observers predict only one in five registered voters will cast ballots.
With the fate of the state's voter-identification law pending in the state Supreme Court, voters will be asked to show a photo ID but allowed to vote even if they do not have one.
The only statewide contest is between Allegheny County Judge Jack McVay Jr. and Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Joseph C. Waters Jr. for the Democratic nomination for an open seat on the state Superior Court.
Waters, 60, is a retired Philadelphia police captain who will mark four years on the bench in July. McVay, 56, a Pittsburgh resident and a licensed pharmacist, is serving his sixth year in Allegheny County's family-court division.
Both Democratic candidates and Vic Stabile, a Harrisburg lawyer who is unopposed for the Republican nomination, have received favorable recommendations from a state bar panel.
Despite the localized focus of the other primaries, they are the first step toward choosing judges, school board members and municipal officials who make decisions about public schools, local taxes, criminal justice, police protection, road repairs, land use and other governmental actions that can have serious consequences for residents.
“These are the elections that really touch you the most,” said Jerry Feaser, the director of elections and voter registration in Dauphin County, which includes Harrisburg, the county seat and the state capital.
In Philadelphia, City Controller Alan Butkovitz faces two primary challengers in his bid for a third four-year term -- tax reform advocate Brett Mandel and former city law department attorney Mark Zecca. The Philadelphia Inquirer has endorsed Mandel.
In Pittsburgh and Scranton, the planned departures of incumbent mayors Luke Ravenstahl and Chris Doherty have resulted in four-way Democratic primaries in both cities.
The Pittsburgh contest features state Auditor General Jack Wagner, city Councilman William Peduto, state Rep. Jake Wheatley and community activist A.J. Richardson.
In Scranton, the Democratic candidates are city tax collector Bill Courtright, former University of Scranton women's center director Elizabeth Randol, former city community development director Joseph Cardamone and truck driver Lee Morgan. Competing for the Republican nomination are financial consultant Garett Lewis and entrepreneur Marcel Lisi.
In Harrisburg, a prosecutor said Monday he would file misdemeanor charges against a longshot candidate for mayor who admitted defacing an opponent's campaign posters with black spray paint.
Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said he would charge mayoral candidate Lewis Butts with criminal mischief and criminal conspiracy for defacing some of bookstore owner Eric Papenfuse's campaign signs. In a brief telephone interview with The Associated Press, Butts asserted that some of his own signs were disappearing and being replaced with Papenfuse signs.
Papenfuse, City Controller Dan Miller and Butts, a community activist, are challenging incumbent Mayor Linda Thompson's re-election bid in the Democratic primary.
York Mayor Kim Bracey is opposed by city council President Carol Hill-Evans for the Democratic nod.
Also Tuesday, voters in legislative districts in western and central Pennsylvania will fill two vacant seats in the House of Representatives in special elections.
The seats were vacated by former Rep. Eugene DePasquale of York County, who was elected state auditor general, and former Rep. Matt Smith of Allegheny County, who was elected to the state Senate.
The winners will finish terms that run through November 2014.
Polling places across the state were scheduled to be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.