Pennsylvania Voters : Absentee Ballot Request

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Absentee Voting in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is one of the more organized states when it comes to voting through the mail. The state uses two different systems for mail-in votes. One system, mail-in ballots, are available to any qualified voter who wants to vote through the mail. You do not need to provide a reason when you request a mail-in ballot. The other ballot is an absentee ballot. Unlike other states, absentee ballots in Pennsylvania are only for voters who are out of state during the election or have an illness or disability which prevents them from participating in the election.

Applying to Vote Through the Mail in Pennsylvania

Whether you want a mail-in ballot or an absentee ballot, you must go through the same application process. This is required even though you are not required to submit a valid excuse for requesting an absentee ballot. The application mostly serves as a security measure against voter fraud. The main sections of the application focus on confirming your identity. You must provide your name, address, date of birth and, most importantly, a signature when you complete your application. All of these are safeguards to prevent someone from impersonating you to apply for a ballot on your behalf.

In Pennsylvania, you can request an application by mail, over the phone or by visiting your local county election office. You can also print off the application online. The state also allows you to apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot online. If you want to apply online, you must provide either your driver’s license or PennDOT ID number. If you do not have one of these numbers, you must use the traditional paper application.

The deadline to submit your ballot for an absentee or mail-in ballot is October 27th. If there is a sudden emergency after the deadline, you can request an emergency absentee ballot. This ballot uses a different application, which must be submitted by 8:00 p.m. on election day. Unlike the other two applications, you are required to provide a reason why you need the ballot, such as a sudden illness, injury or family emergency preventing you from voting.

Casting your Ballot Through the Mail in Pennsylvania

When you receive your ballot, whether mail-in or absentee, you also receive an instruction booklet along with a return envelope. The instruction sheet tells you everything you need to know to cast your ballot, including how to properly mark the ballot, what type of ink to use and where to return the ballot. Make sure you include your signature when you mail the ballot, otherwise, it will not be counted. If you do not want to send your ballot through the mail, you can seal it in an envelope and then drop it off at a deposit box. Deposit boxes are available at most polling stations. You can contact your county election office for more information on the nearest deposit box.

When you receive your ballot depends on the date you sent your application and your county. Because the state is expecting a surge in applications due to Covid-19, it may take longer than usual to receive your ballot. Fortunately, the state has an online system which allows you to track the status of your ballot. If your ballot has been struck in transit for an unusual amount of time, or you have not received the ballot by the middle of October, contact your county election office to get an update.

In Pennsylvania, you have until 8 p.m. on election day to submit your mail-in or absentee ballot. If you are sending your ballot through the mail, keep in mind it typically takes between two to five days for the ballot to process. Even if your ballot is postmarked on a date before the deadline, it will not count if it arrives after 8 p.m. on election day.

Differences for Oversea and Military Voters

The process for voting through the mail is nearly identical for oversea and military voters. The one difference is the application process. Both oversea and military voters are allowed to apply for a ballot using the Federal Post Card Application form. This application request can be completed online. You must submit your absentee ballot as an overseas or military voter on the day before the election. Ballots received up to a week after the election are still counted as long as they are postmarked from before the deadline.

How is Pennsylvania Preparing for the 2020 Election

Governor Tom Wolf required the Department of State to publish a report detailing what went right or wrong during the 2020 primary. The goal of the report is to identify how the state can improve safety standards to address Covid-19 concerns. One of the biggest changes state officials made was eliminating the required excuse clause from absentee ballots, allowing all registered voters to apply. As a result, nearly 17 times the number of voters from 2016 applied for an absentee ballot in the primary. The state is also looking to hire additional workers and begin counting the absentee votes earlier for the presidential election.

The state is also investing in more supplies for polling stations. This includes:

  • Masks and gloves.
  • Hand sanitizer, for both workers and voters.
  • Cleaning supplies for voting equipment.
  • Marking tape to indicate safe social distances.