*Update: The deadline to request a mail-in ballot has now passed. If you did not already request a mail-in ballot, you will vote on Election Day at your polling place. If you have already requested your mail-in ballot, you can submit your completed ballot at a secure drop-box until 8:00 p.m. on November 3rd. The PA Department of State recommends hand delivering your completed ballot rather putting it the mail due to concerns about mail delays and pending legislative/judicial attempts to disallow ballots received after November 3rd.
With Election Day quickly approaching, there are many questions about where, when, and how to vote. Whether you are mailing your ballot, dropping it off at an early voting site, or going to your polling place on Election Day, there are certain steps you need to take to make sure that your vote counts in this important election!
Requesting a Mail-in or Absentee Ballot
Traditionally, Pennsylvania voters could only utilize absentee ballots if they would be away from home or if medical conditions prohibited them from traveling to a polling location. However, all Pennsylvania voters now have the option of using mail-in ballots. With COVID-19, voting by mail is a safe option for anyone who does not want to go to their polling location in person.
Registered Pennsylvania voters may request their mail-in or absentee ballot online through PA Voter Services. Your completed application must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 27th. Absentee ballots being requested for medical necessity require you to provide your primary care physician’s information. Mail-in ballot requests require a PA identification or Social Security number as well as providing a full name and address.
New Jersey has sent ballots to all registered voters. Ballots in New Jersey can be mailed back in a secure envelope, dropped in secure ballot boxes, delivered to the County Board of Elections Office, or brought to the polling location on November 3rd.
Many counties in Pennsylvania have opened early voting sites at which individuals can request and complete a mail-in ballot on-site. Individuals who have already received their ballot in the mail can drop off their completed ballots at these locations as well. The most detailed information about early voting locations in Pennsylvania can be found through Votes PA.
It is important to note that voting early means filling out a mail-in ballot and handing it in at the early voting location. Early voting will not include voting machines. You can request a ballot at an early voting site (as long as you have not already requested that one be mailed to you) until October 27th at 5pm. After October 27th, voters will still be able to drop their completed and sealed ballot into the secure ballot box until November 3rd.
Completing Your Mail-In Ballot
It is essential that you follow the directions closely when completing your mail-in ballot. Carefully complete your ballot using blue or black ink. You must then place your completed ballot in the white inner secrecy envelope. The ballot must be enclosed in this secrecy envelope in order to be counted! You will then place the sealed secrecy envelope in the pre-addressed outer return envelope. Complete, sign and date the voter’s declaration on the outside of the outer return envelope. Votes PA provides an illustrated guide to completing a mail-in ballot.
You must return your completed ballot by 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3rd. If you are mailing your ballot, it must be postmarked by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day and received at your county office by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, November 6th.
Where to Vote on Election Day
If you are casting your vote on Election Day, confirm the location of your polling place before you head to the polls. It is possible that your polling location has changed since the last time you voted.
In Philadelphia County, you can contact Philadelphia Voter Registration Office at 215-686-1590 for up to date information. The website of the Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners allows you to input your address and find your polling place. Outside of Philadelphia County, you can utilize the PA Voters Services website to find your polling location.
New Jersey voters can find their polling locations through the New Jersey Voter Information Portal. Polling locations are listed by county.
This year’s election will be different than usual due to the need for safety measures to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Poll workers will be wearing protective gear, including face masks, shields or plastic barriers, and gloves. Social distancing will be required at all polling locations.
Voting machines have changed since the 2016 election. In Philadelphia, voters will use a touchscreen system where voters make their selections on the machine, have those selections printed, and then send that paper off to be stored in a cartridge. The Philadelphia Office of City Commissioners provides a step-by-step guide to using these voting machines.
You will need your ID to vote if it is your first time at the polling station. If you are a returning voter at this location, you will not be asked for identification. Polls in Pennsylvania will be open 7am until 8pm.
New Jersey voters can go to their polling place but will be filling out provisional ballots, not voting on machines. If a voter cannot fill out a paper ballot due to disability, an accessible voting device will be available.
What’s on the Ballot?
In addition to voting for President, Pennsylvania voters will cast their votes for representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives, Pennsylvania State Senate, and Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Voters can look up a sample ballot through Ballotpedia. In Philadelphia, there will also be four ballot questions for voters to decide upon.