Voting by mail? Here’s what Pa. residents should know about mail ballots


FILE – This May 26, 2020, file photo shows an Official Democratic General Primary mail-in ballot and secrecy envelope, for the Pennsylvania primary in Pittsburgh. Amid the global pandemic, more people than ever are expected to bypass their polling place and cast absentee ballots for the first time. Voters marking ballots from home could lead to an increase in the kinds of mistakes that typically would be caught by a scanner or election worker at the polls. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid encourages Pennsylvanians who plan to vote by mail in the Nov. 2 election to hand-deliver their ballots as soon as possible.

“It’s time to return your mail ballot to ensure it arrives by the deadline. Although county election boards will accept voted mail ballots until 8 p.m. on Election Day, voters should not wait until the last minute,” Acting Secretary Degraffenreid said.

Request a mail ballot:

Pa. voters can apply for a mail ballot through Tuesday, Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. Once the ballot is received, voters are encouraged to fill it out and return it right away.

Voters also have the option of voting their mail ballot in person at their local county election office. With this option, voters can apply for the ballot, await eligibility, complete and return their ballot at the office in one visit.

To apply online for an absentee ballot, visit the Pa. voter services website.

Before casting a mail ballot:

  • Read the instructions carefully.
  • Fill out the ballot, being sure to follow instructions on how to mark selections.
  • Seal the ballot in the inner secrecy envelope that indicates “Official Election Ballot,” making sure not to make any stray marks on the envelope.
  • Then seal the secrecy envelope in the pre-addressed outer return envelope.
  • Complete the voter’s declaration on the outer envelope by signing their name and writing the current date.
  • Voters must complete all these steps for their ballot to be counted.

How to return a mail ballot:

Additonal information:

Under Pennsylvania law, voters may only return their own ballots. However, there is an exception for voters with a disability who have designated someone in writing to deliver their ballot on their behalf.

Voters who applied for and received a mail ballot and then decide to vote at the polls must bring their entire mail ballot packet with them to be voided.

If a voter applied for a mail ballot but did not receive it or no longer has the mail ballot and envelopes, they may vote by provisional ballot at the polls on Election Day. Their county board of elections will then verify that they did not vote by mail before counting their provisional ballot.

More information on voting and elections in Pa. can be found on the state’s voting website.

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