What to know about mail-in voting ahead of Pennsylvania's Nov. 8 general election | Pittsburgh City Paper

What to know about mail-in voting ahead of Pennsylvania's Nov. 8 general election

click to enlarge What to know about mail-in voting ahead of Pennsylvania's Nov. 8 general election
Penn Capital-Star Photo: Stephen Caruso
A Pennsylvania mail-in ballot

Election Day is six weeks away, and mail-in ballots are already arriving for Pennsylvania voters.

To vote on Nov. 8, you must be at least 18 years old on or before the election, be a U.S. citizen for at least 30 days before Election Day, and live in Pennsylvania. You must register or make updates to your voter registration by Oct. 24 to be eligible to participate in the 2022 general election.

All Pennsylvania voters may cast their ballots by mail, and there’s still time to request a mail-in ballot.

Here’s what to know about applying, filling out your ballot, and returning it:

What is the difference between an absentee and a mail-in ballot?

Pennsylvania has two ballot options to vote by mail: mail-in or absentee ballot. 

Any qualified voter may apply for a mail-in ballot without reason.

Absentee ballots are available to those who will be out of their local municipality on Election Day or those who have a disability or illness that prevents them from voting in person.

How to apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot?

You must be a registered voter to apply.

To apply, visit pavoterservices.pa.gov.

You’ll fill out your name, date of birth, phone number, email address, and driver’s license or PennDOT identification number. If you do not have a PennDOT number, you may include the last four digits of your social security number.

The application also asks for your home county and address. You also can sign up to receive mail-in ballots this year and receive annual applications for mail-in ballots each year.

Before submitting your application, you must sign a formal declaration stating that you are eligible to vote by mail and ensure that the completed information is accurate.

When is the deadline to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot?

Your county elections board must receive all applications by 5 p.m. on Nov. 1.

Where is my mail-in or absentee ballot?

Once you apply for a mail-in ballot, you should receive an email confirmation and notification once your county elections office sends it to you.

Check the status of your ballot online or contact your county elections office.

How do I seal my mail-in ballot?

Once you receive your mail-in ballot, mark your selections in a black or blue ballpoint pen.

Place your ballot in the privacy envelope, which is labeled “Official Election Ballot,” and seal it. Then, put the privacy envelope in the larger ballot return envelope, and seal it.

Complete the voter’s declaration on the back of the ballot return envelope, including signing and dating it.

How do I return my mail-in ballot?

You can return your mail-in ballot by mail. Remember to put first-class postage on the front of the ballot return envelope, and be aware of United States Postal Service delivery times.

Mail-in ballots may be returned in person by dropping them off at your local elections office or other designated site.

Not every county offers secure ballot drop box locations. For specific information about drop-off locations, visit your county elections office website.

Voters may not return a completed mail-in ballot to their polling place. If you received a mail-in ballot but did not complete it, you can surrender your unvoted ballot — and both envelopes — at your polling place and vote a regular ballot in person.

When are mail-in ballots due to county elections offices?

Your county board of elections must receive mail-in ballots by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Ballots received after the deadline will not be counted.

Can someone else return my mail-in ballot?

No. Pennsylvania law prohibits another person from returning a mail-in or absentee ballot that is not their own.

The only exceptions are if you are a voter with a disability and have designated someone — in writing — to deliver your ballot or if you need an emergency absentee ballot, which can be requested after 5 p.m. on the Tuesday before Election Day.

I applied for a mail-in or absentee ballot, but it never arrived. Now what?

If you did not receive or cast your mail-in ballot, you can request to vote by provisional ballot at your polling place on Election Day. After county election officials confirm that you did not vote by mail, they will count your provisional ballot after Election Day.

Marley Parish is a reporter with the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.