EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT VOTING BY MAIL, OR IN PERSON, IN PENNSYLVANIA
MAKE YOUR VOTING PLAN
Know the Dates
- October 19: Deadline to register to vote
- October 27: Deadline to request a mail in ballot
- November 3: ELECTION DAY! Your mail in ballot must be postmarked by 8:00 p.m. to be counted.
- November 5: Your County Board of Elections must receive completed mail-in and civilian absentee ballots by 5:00 p.m.
REGISTERING TO VOTE
Do I Need a Pennsylvania Driver’s License to Register?
No. If you do have one, it will be connected to your registration. If you don’t have a driver’s license or state ID, you’ll be asked to use your social security number.
What Do I Do if I Have Problems Registering?
I’m Already Registered, Is There Anything I Should Check or Do?
You should check your registration info here to make sure you’re still properly registered and that your name and address are correct. Sometimes, people run into trouble because they forget to update their voter registration after changing their name or moving.
VOTING BY MAIL
How Can I Apply to Vote By Mail?
The quickest way is to use the Department of State’s online form, which will require a driver’s license number, state ID number, or social security number. You can also fill out a paper application and either mail it or hand-deliver it to your county elections office.
When Will I Receive My Vote By Mail Ballot?
Very soon. Ballots have been finalized and counties are beginning to print and mail them. Even if you applied long ago, your ballot might not arrive until close to or the start of October. Once those first huge batches of mail ballots go out, counties send mail ballots out as voters request them.
Do I Need a Stamp to Vote By Mail?
No. All counties will provide prepaid postage for submitting your filled-out mail ballot, funded by the state. (You still need postage for ballot applications and voter registration forms.)
How Can I Check My Vote By Mail Status?
You can check your ballot status online, including whether your application has been approved, the ballot has been mailed, and whether it’s been received once you send it back. If you include your email address when applying to vote by mail, you should also get emails notifying you of changes to your ballot status. And you can always call your county office to check your status.
Can I Pick Up a Mail-In Ballot in Person?
Yes, at your county elections office. At the elections office, you can fill out (or hand over) a mail ballot application; the elections staff process it and give you your mail ballot; and you can fill it out and return it right then and there. You can essentially vote early and in person: Request, receive, fill out, and submit your mail ballot, all in one trip!
Some counties are setting up satellite elections offices so voters will have multiple locations to use this kind of early voting.
Where Can I Go to See a Sample Ballot?
View your sample ballot at the Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners.
What is the Earliest Date I Can Hand Deliver My Ballot in Pennsylvania?
As soon as you have your mail ballot, you can go to your county elections office and turn it in. If drop boxes or other options are available, you can use those, too.
Could USPS Problems Prevent My Vote From Counting?
Pennsylvania does have tight mail ballot deadlines. The USPS warned Pennsylvania that mail ballots may not be delivered on time if they are requested near Election Day. So if it’s close to Election Day and you’re worried your ballot won’t be mailed back in time, consider your other options. To safely vote by mail and ensure your ballot is counted, do it as early as possible.
Can I Vote in Person After Requesting to Vote By Mail?
Election officials are strongly recommending against taking your mail ballot to have it voided at the polls. Poll workers have not been sufficiently trained on how to void mail ballots, causing confusion, chaos and long lines. If you’ve requested to vote by mail and have your mail ballot in hand, please complete the ballot and drop off at a satellite election location.
How Do I Know if My Ballot was Received?
You can check your ballot status online and if you include your email address when applying to vote by mail, you should also get automated emails notifying you of changes to your ballot status. You can also call your county office to check your status.
Where Can I Return My Ballot?
You can mail your ballot, or deliver it by hand by dropping it off at a county elections office or satellite elections office.
Counties might also set up drop boxes, as some did in the primary election, but it’s not yet clear which counties will do that and at what locations. Right now, we know for sure you can hand-deliver your mail ballot at your county elections office, such as in room 142 of Philadelphia City Hall.
What if I Lost My Ballot or Never Received It?
You can ask your county elections office to send you a new ballot and void the old one. (But if you find or receive your original ballot, make sure not to use it. It will not be counted once it’s been voided in the system.)
You can also still show up to the polls and vote on a provisional ballot, which is a paper ballot that is set aside and counted once it is clear you are eligible to vote.
Will I Be Able to Find Out When My Ballot is Counted?
Yes, the Pennsylvania Department of State’s ballot tracking website lets you see whether your ballot is counted. If you included your email address when you applied for the ballot, you should receive an email at each step, including counting your ballot.
How are Mail Ballots Counted?
Counties are allowed to count mail ballots beginning on Election Day — not before. It’s a multi-step process that involves scanning the ballot envelope to make sure it’s legitimate and to mark the voter as having voted; checking voter signatures to see whether they match what’s on file; opening the mailing envelope; opening the blank secrecy envelope inside and removing the ballot; and scanning the ballot itself. County procedures vary, but in many counties they also organize the ballots into batches based on voting precinct, so a precinct’s ballots are all counted at once.
Some of this is sped up through equipment that can sort mail, slice open envelopes, and extract ballots. The last step, of actually reading the ballots and tallying the selections, is usually done on high-speed scanners that process large batches of ballots at a time.
I Have Been Hearing A Lot About Secrecy Envelopes – What are They?
Secrecy envelopes, the envelope formally labeled as “Official Election Ballot”, MUST be used in order for your ballot to count. Please follow all instructions when completing and returning your mail-in ballot!
How Do I Complete My Ballot?
- Complete your entire ballot in black or blue ink.
- Seal the ballot in the smaller secrecy envelope, then place that in the larger return envelope.
- Sign and complete the voter declaration on the back of the larger return envelope.
- Mail your ballot or return it in person to your county election office or another drop-off location.
You can also view this simple and informative video on how to order, complete and return a mail in ballot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVrccbriFEY&feature=youtu.be
VOTING IN PERSON
Where Do I Go to Vote, In Person?
This isn’t yet finalized. County elections officials are working to figure out which locations are willing to open as polling places. Your polling place might not be the same one you’ve gone to in the past, so check here often to know for sure.
Do I Need ID to Vote?
Only if this is your first time voting in that precinct, such as if you have moved to a new neighborhood or are newly registered. Otherwise, you won’t need photo ID and shouldn’t be asked for it.
If your polling place has changed, but you’re still in the same precinct, you don’t need ID.
When are Polls Open?
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on November 3. You can line up before 7 a.m., and if you are in line by 8 p.m. you will be allowed to vote.