Your Complete Guide to Mail-In Voting

By Irma Q. RSS Wed, October 21, 2020

With Election Day coming up on November 3, it is critical that all citizens are aware of how to make their voices safely and properly heard.

This post will cover the basics of mail-in voting and how you can make sure your vote counts by:

  • Applying to vote by mail-in or absentee ballot
  • Properly turning in a mail-in ballot

For up-to-date election information in Pennsylvania, visit votesPA.com, or contact your county election office.


How does mail-in voting work?

Registered voters can apply for either option of the mail-in ballot online with:

  • A valid Pennsylvania driver’s license or photo I.D. number.
  • If you do not have a valid license or photo ID, you can provide your social security number along with a photo of your signature.
  • If you don't have one of the documents listed under option 1 or a social security number, you can provide a photocopy of one of the following IDs (under "Identification for Mail Voting") with your absentee or mail-in ballot application.
  • You can also print and mail your absentee or mail-in application to your County Board of Elections, found here in English or Spanish.

Don't have a printer? Have a paper application mailed to you!

 

Do I need to apply for an absentee ballot?

You can apply for an absentee ballot if you plan to be out of the municipality on election day, or if you have a disability or illness. Should you select this ballot option, you would be required to list your reason in your application.

 

Who may apply for an absentee ballot application?

  • College students who are not registered to vote at their school address
  • People whose work or vacation take them away from the municipality where they live
  • Those with a physical disability or illness that prevents them from going to the polling place
  • Members of the military
  • People who may have a conflict due to the celebration of a religious holiday
  • Inmates who haven't been convicted of a felony

The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is one week before the election, October 27 by 5:00 p.m.

For lingering questions regarding mail-in or absentee voting, please visit VotesPA.com.

 

How do I turn in my mail-in ballot?

All mail-in ballot applications must be received by your county election office by 5:00 p.m., October 27. Once you receive your mail-in ballot, you can fill it out and drop it in the mail. The postage is prepaid. Your mail-in ballot must be postmarked by 8 p.m. on election day, November 3 and be received by your county election office by 5 p.m. on Friday, November 6 to be counted. You can also return your mail-in ballot to your county election officea drop box, or other designated location by 8 p.m. on election day.

Whether you plan to drop it off, or put it in the mail, do so as early as you can to ensure it is delivered on time!

Tip: The USPS recommends that voters send their mail-in ballot applications at least 15 days prior to the October 27 deadline, and that voters mail their voted ballots no later than 7 days before Election Day, November 3.

Go to the City Commissioner’s website to learn more about drop-off locations. You can also call the Philadelphia County Board of Elections at 215-686-3469.

 

How can I confirm that my vote was received?

As long as you fill out your ballot properly and return it by your state’s deadline, it will count the same as if you voted in person at the polls. PA voters can see the status of their mail-in or absentee ballot online. Track your ballot's progress from when your county receives your application, to when they receive your voted ballot.

 

What is on the ballot?

  • President of the United States
  • U.S. House
  • PA Attorney General
  • PA Auditor General
  • PA Treasurer
  • PA General Assembly:
    • All of the House of Representatives
    • Half of the Senate
  • On some, local ballot questions

Use Committee of Seventy's BYOBallot tool to review the candidates and ballot questions that will appear on your ballot, whether you vote in-person or by mail.

 

How do I fill out the ballot?

Make sure to carefully follow the instructions to make sure your ballot is properly cast. Please watch the following informative video that demonstrates how to properly fill out and return the ballot.

Make sure you avoid sending in a 'naked ballot' by reading our recent Blog post

 

What dates and deadlines do I need to keep in mind?

  • October 19 is the deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania.
  • October 27 at 5:00 p.m. is the last day for your county office to receive mail-in and absentee ballot applications
  • November 3 is the day of the General Election. Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. As long as you are in line by 8:00 p.m., you will be able to vote. Your mail-in ballot must be postmarked by 8:00 p.m.

If you have any other questions, the Philadelphia City Commissioner’s website provides useful information for voters regarding upcoming elections. You can also visit VotesPA for any statewide updates and general information about voting in Pennsylvania.

 

Anything else I need to know?

  • Once you submit a mail-in ballot, you cannot vote in person.
  • When you register, you can also sign up to be a permanent mail-in ballot voter so you can automatically receive ballots by mail for the rest of the year.
  • In emergency situations (such as an unexpected illness or disability and last-minute absence) following the deadline at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday before the election, you can request an Emergency Absentee Ballot.
  • If you have a disability that prevents you from applying in person for your mail-in ballot or delivering your mail-in ballot, you may designate an agent to deliver your ballot materials for you. You must designate the agent in writing by filling out this form or a form provided by your county.
  • If you apply online, be sure to provide an email address to receive notifications about your application and ballot status. 

For a comprehensive list of voting information and resources, check out our U.S. Elections and Politics Explore Topic. Stay tuned for a future Blog post that outlines polling locations and how to safely vote in-person on Election Day!


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