Know Your Options to Vote
Mail-in and Absentee Ballots
Once you are registered to vote in Pennsylvania, you have a few options regarding how you vote. If you prefer a mail ballot, you have two options. The first is a mail-in ballot, which any registered voter has the ability to request. If you are going to be out of the area on election day or have a disability or illness that prevents you from going, you can request an absentee ballot that requires you to list a reason for your ballot. This is the second option for voting with a mail-in ballot.
Identification for Mail Voting
In order to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot, you must supply proof of identification (ID), unless you are a “uniformed and overseas citizen” or are a voter who qualifies under the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped ACT. The accepted forms of ID include either a current and valid Pennsylvania driver’s license, a PennDOT photo ID card, the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number, or a photocopy of certain qualifying photo IDs that showcase your name and an expiration date that is current. Those photo IDs can include:
A U.S. Passport
A U.S. Military ID
An Employee photo ID issued by Federal, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania county, or Pennsylvania municipal government
Photo ID issued by an accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning
Photo identification issued by a Pennsylvania care facility, including long-term care facilities, assisted living residences and personal care homes
Applying for a Mail-in or Absentee Ballot Online
If you have the proper proof of identification, you can apply online here. Through this form you can also sign up to be an annual mail-in voter or provide an email address to receive notifications about your application and ballot status.
Annual Mail-in Ballot List
You can request to be added to the annual mail-in ballot list and you’ll automatically receive an application to renew your mail-in ballot request each year. Once this request is approved, you will receive ballots automatically for the remainder of the year and for each election.
Applying for a Mail-in or Absentee Ballot by Mail
The paper ballot applications comes in several languages, including a Mail-in and Absentee Application in English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. You can download these applications, complete on paper, and then mail them in. To mail your completed application, you must send them to your county election office one week before the next election. More detailed instructions on this process can be found here.
Applying for a Mail-in or Absentee Ballot in Person
You can apply in person at your county election board, or other designated locations. Once your county’s ballot is finalized and available, you may request and promptly receive your mail-in ballot.
Emergency Absentee Ballot
In the case of an emergency such as illness, disability, or last-minute absence, you can request an Emergency Absentee Ballot after 5 pm on the Tuesday before the election. This must be submitted to the County Election Board by the time polls close, 8pm, on Election Day.
Voting at the Polls
Every polling place must have at least one accessible voting system. Allegheny County has several accessible devices in place including tactile keypads, headphone jacks, and dual switch jack. Allegheny County also utilizes several accessibility features, which voters can access at the bottom of the screen while voting on the ExpressVote ballot marking device. These include the ability to change the screens contrast, zoom in or out, or change the speed and volume at which the ballot is read when using headphones.
You can also look up or contact your polling place ahead of time to see if it is accessible. If you need help voting due to a disability, you may bring someone with you as long as they are not a Judge of Elections, your Union Representative or your Employer.
Hours of Polls
Some employers may offer paid or unpaid time off to vote on election day. Check with your employer to see if this applies to you. Polls are open from 7 AM – 8 PM to allow for ease in voting. Anyone in line at 8 PM will be allowed to vote. Further details on accessibility around voting are located here.
After your first time at the polls, and if your polling place has not changed, you will only be asked for your name before being able to vote.
Updating Your Voter Registration
If you move; change your address, name, or party you may want to check and update your registration. You can either check your registration status online or by the phone by using the Find Voter Registration Status form on the Pennsylvania Department of State web site, contacting your county voter registration office, or calling 1-877-VOTESPA. You can also download a Pennsylvania Voter Registration Application (PDF) which is located on the vote.pa.gov website. Remember, if this is your first time voting at a new polling place, you must bring a form of identification with you, either with a photo or not. Approved forms of photo identification include:
Pennsylvania driver’s license or PennDOT ID card
ID issued by any Commonwealth agency
ID issues by the U.S. Government
U.S. Armed Forces ID
If you do not have a photo ID, you can use a non-photo identification that includes your name and address:
Confirmation issued by the County Voter Registration Office
Non-photo ID issued by the commonwealth
Non-photo ID issued by the U.S. Government
Current utility bill
Current bank statement
Changing Your Political Party
If you are interested in changing your party, changes made 15 days or fewer before an election will take effect for the next election. If you want to change your name, you need to bring your identification with your new name. If you move out of state, you may need to register before you vote in your new state. You can also cancel your registration in Pennsylvania by filling out a Voter Request to Cancel Voter Registration form which is available both in English and Spanish. Then, simply mail this form to the Pennsylvania county election office where you used to live. For more specific details about when you move and the steps to take with your voter registration, please refer here.
It is important to remember that for primary elections in Pennsylvania, you can only vote for the candidates in the same political party you have named in your voter registration. So, if you are independent, you cannot vote in the primary election. This may be one possible reason why you would want to change your political party. However, even if you are registered independent, sometimes there are constitutional amendments, ballot questions, and special elections in which all registered voters are able to vote for in the primary.
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