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Myths & FAQs

Myths and Frequently Asked Questions

 

Myths

MYTH 1: VOTING BY MAIL WILL LEAD TO VOTER FRAUD

Fact: Extensive research indicates that election and voter fraud is very rare. There is no evidence of an increase in voter fraud in states that primarily vote by mail. Yet repeated, false allegations of widespread fraud chip away at Americans trust in elections and can potentially discourage voters from casting ballots. In Oregon, voters have mailed in over 100 million ballots since 2000. Of those, 0.000012% resulted in fraud (that is about 12 cases). For more info, see this research from the Brennan Center for Justice and this commentary from Amber McReynolds and Charles Stewart III, two of the leading experts in election administration.

MYTH 2: IF I MAIL MY BALLOT, IT WON’T BE COUNTED ON TIME

Fact: Every vote matters and every single vote is counted. 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. However, the deadlines are strictly enforced; take great care to ensure your ballot will be received in time. In Pennsylvania, the deadline for mail-in ballots is 8 p.m. on May 18th, 2021. Thanks to a barcode on the outer envelope of your ballot, you can confirm that your ballot was received and counted through the tracking page on the Department of State website. With this barcode, election officials can track who has voted but NOT who a voter has voted for.

MYTH 3: VOTE BY MAIL GIVES ONE PARTY AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE.

Fact: Voting by mail has shown no partisan advantage. Rather, vote by mail has been proven to increase voter turnout regardless of party affiliation. Moreover, broader access to vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic helps protect the health of voters and poll workers. For more, see this analysis by the statistics wonks at FiveThirtyEight.

Voter Frequently Asked Questions

WHY IS THE COMMITTEE OF SEVENTY ADVOCATING FOR STATEWIDE VOTE-BY-MAIL?

No one should have to choose between exercising their right to vote and keeping themselves and their families safe. During the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing the number of voters who cast ballots by mail will lower the number of people who head to the polls, decreasing potential virus exposure for themselves, poll workers, and others at a polling place.

WHAT IS ON THE BALLOT ON MAY 18TH?

There will be several statewide races on the ballot where registered Republicans and Democrats will select nominees for vacancies on the Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth courts. There are also four statewide ballot questions, including three proposed constitutional amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution. Local elections will additionally be held in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT STATEWIDE JUDICIAL RACES?

Supreme Court: The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania consists of seven justices, each elected statewide to 10-year terms. It hears discretionary appeals from the Pennsylvania Superior Court and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, and it hears certain direct appeals from the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. These justices provide the Final judgement in interpreting PA’s laws & Constitution. There is one vacancy on this court.

Superior Court: The Superior Court of Pennsylvania consists of fifteen judges who are elected statewide and serve 10-year terms. It is one of two statewide intermediate appellate courts, and it reviews most of the civil and criminal cases that are appealed from the Courts of Common Pleas across Pennsylvania - the busiest in the country, receiving hundreds of thousands of filings a year. There is one vacancy on this court.

Commonwealth Court: The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania consists of nine judges elected statewide to 10-year terms. It hears appeals from final orders of certain state agencies and certain designated cases from the Courts of Common Pleas involving public sector legal questions and government regulations (cases involving state and local government - challenges to laws, tax disputes). There are two vacancies on this court.

Learn more about the different courts here.

WHAT ARE THE FOUR STATEWIDE BALLOT QUESTIONS ON THE BALLOT?

1. Legislative Resolution to Extend or Terminate Emergency Declaration Amendment

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law and increase the power of the General Assembly to unilaterally terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration—and the powers of Commonwealth agencies to address the disaster regardless of its severity pursuant to that declaration—through passing a concurrent resolution by simple majority, thereby removing the existing check and balance of presenting a resolution to the Governor for approval or disapproval?

Plain English Statement of the Office of Attorney General

Joint Resolution No. 2021-1 proposes to amend Article III, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution to provide a new exception to traditional legislative procedure by allowing the General Assembly to terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration or a portion of such declaration without needing the Governor’s approval.

Learn more at Ballotpedia.

2. Emergency Declaration Amendment

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law so that: a disaster emergency declaration will expire automatically after 21 days, regardless of the severity of the emergency, unless the General Assembly takes action to extend the disaster emergency; the Governor may not declare a new disaster emergency to respond to the dangers facing the Commonwealth unless the General Assembly passes a concurrent resolution; the General Assembly enacts new laws for disaster management?

Plain English Statement of the Office of Attorney General

Joint Resolution No. 2021-1 proposes adding a new section to Article IV of the Pennsylvania Constitution. This amendment incorporates disaster emergency declaration and management powers directly into the Constitution by:

  • Granting the Governor authority to declare a disaster emergency declaration by proclamation or executive order;
  • Requiring each declaration to indicate the nature, location and type of disaster;
  • Granting the General Assembly authority to pass laws providing for the manner in which each disaster shall be managed;
  • Limiting the duration of a Governor’s declaration to 21 days, unless otherwise extended, in whole or in part, by a concurrent resolution of the General Assembly;
  • Preventing the Governor, upon the expiration of a declaration, from issuing a new declaration based upon the same or substantially similar facts, unless the General Assembly passes a concurrent resolution expressly approving a new declaration.

Learn more at Ballotpedia.

3. Equal Rights Regardless of Race or Ethnicity Amendment

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended by adding a new section providing that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of an individual’s race or ethnicity?

Plain English Statement of the Office of Attorney General

Joint Resolution No. 2021-1, if approved by the electorate, will add a new section to Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution. This amendment creates a constitutional prohibition against restricting or denying an individual’s equal rights under Pennsylvania law because of race or ethnicity.

Learn more at Ballotpedia.

4. Making Municipal Fire and Emergency Medical Services Companies Eligible for Loans

Do you favor expanding the use of the indebtedness authorized under the referendum for loans to volunteer fire companies, volunteer ambulance services and volunteer rescue squads under 35 PA.C.S. §7378.1 (related to referendum for additional indebtedness) to include loans to municipal fire departments or companies that provide services through paid personnel and emergency medical services companies for the purpose of establishing and modernizing facilities to house apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, and for purchasing apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, protective and communications equipment and any other accessory equipment necessary for the proper performance of the duties of the fire companies and emergency medical services companies?

Plain English Statement of the Office of Attorney General

The purpose of the ballot question is to determine whether Pennsylvania voters authorize making municipal fire departments or companies with paid personnel and emergency medical services companies eligible to apply for loans from an already existing state loan program.

Learn more at Ballotpedia.

WHAT IS ON THE BALLOT ON MAY 18TH IN PHILADELPHIA COUNTY?

In addition to the statewide races and ballot questions, registered Philadelphia County Republicans and Democrats will select nominees for District Attorney and City Controller, as well as fill eight vacancies on the Court of Common Pleas and three on the Municipal Court. The city’s 1,703 voting divisions will also nominate Judge of Elections and Inspector of Elections. Philadelphia County voters will also vote on one local ballot question on May 18th.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT POSITIONS ON THE BALLOT IN PHILADELPHIA COUNTY?

District Attorney: The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office is the largest prosecutor's office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation, employing 600 lawyers, detectives and support staff. It is organized into six divisions: Executive/Administration, Trials, Investigations, Juvenile, Law and Gun Trafficking/Community Engagement. The District Attorney's Office is responsible for prosecution of more than 50,000 criminal cases yearly. The District Attorney serves a four-year term with no term limits. The annual salary (2019) was $182,184.

City Controller: The City Controller is the Chief Auditor of the City of Philadelphia and the School District. The City Controller is independent of the Mayor and City Council and is charged with auditing their operations. The Controller also evaluates the five-year plans the city submits to PICA, investigates accusations of mismanagement and fraud among city agencies, employees and contractors. In addition, the Controller sits on the city’s Board of Pensions and Retirement, Gas Commission (which oversees the Philadelphia Gas Works), Sinking Fund Commission (which oversees the investment of revenues paid into a fund for the payment of bond principal and investment of the PGW Retirement Reserve) and Bond Commission. Terms are four years with no term limits. The annual salary (2019) was $133,684.

Court of Common Pleas: The Courts of Common Pleas are Pennsylvania's courts of general trial jurisdiction. They have existed since the colonial charter of Pennsylvania, and are incorporated in the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776. The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas currently consists of judges, assigned in the Trial Court, Family Court and Orphans Court divisions. The Court of Common Pleas is supervised by a President Judge who is elected for a five-year term by the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas. Candidates must be residents of their districts for at least one year and members of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Bar at the time of filing nomination petitions for office. Terms are for 10 years and the mandatory retirement age is 75. The annual salary is $188,665; $190,420 for the President Judge.

Municipal Court: The Philadelphia Municipal Court is a court of limited jurisdiction, with law-trained Judges, and is responsible for trying criminal offenses carrying maximum sentences of incarceration of five years or less, civil cases in which the amount is $10,000 or less for Small Claims; unlimited dollar amounts in Landlord and Tenant cases; and $15,000 in real-estate and school-tax cases. The Municipal Court has initial jurisdiction in processing every adult criminal arrest in Philadelphia, and conducts preliminary hearings for most adult felony cases. Candidates for seats on the Municipal Court must be residents of their districts for at least one year and members of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Bar at the time of filing nomination petitions for office. Terms are for six years and the mandatory retirement age is 75. The annual salary is $182,346; $185,163 for the President Judge.

Judge of Election and Inspector of Election: In Pennsylvania, three of the five people who run each polling place on Election Day are elected officials themselves. These positions are Judge of Election and Majority and Minority Inspectors of Election. In Philadelphia, they administer the elections in each of the 1703 divisions throughout the city. They number more than 8,500. The Judge of Election has ultimate responsibility for the conduct of a polling place and the personnel working there, and must take an oath to admit only those voters who are properly registered and entitled to vote, to prevent fraud, deceit or abuse, and to make sure that all votes at the end of the day are accurately tabulated. The Judge is also responsible for opening and closing the polls, and for all the paperwork required on Election Day.

The Majority and Minority Inspectors are responsible for checking voters’ registration documents and preparing certificates to authorize voters to cast their ballots. They ensure that the voting process is legal and administered fairly by verifying the signatures of voters as they sign the poll book. The Inspectors are also responsible for checking to be sure the voting machine numbers are accurate at the end of the day.

Candidates must be 18 years old. Judges of Elections are paid $120 for working on Election Day and Inspectors $115. All are also paid $30 for attending a training session. For more about “working the polls,” see the Committee of Seventy’s “How to Run for Election Officer” guide.

WHAT IS THE PHILADELPHIA COUNTY BALLOT QUESTION?

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for an expanded Board of License Inspection Review that can hear and decide cases in three-member panels?

Plain English Statement of the Law Department of the City of Philadelphia

The City’s Home Rule Charter is like the City’s constitution; it sets up the rules for City government. If you vote “Yes” on this ballot question, it means you want to change the City’s Charter so that the City’s Board of License and Inspection Review is expanded to have nine members and is allowed to hear and decide cases in groups of three members at a time.

Learn more about the Philadelphia County ballot question here.

HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT THE MEASURES AND/OR CANDIDATES THAT APPEAR ON MY BALLOT?

In Pennsylvania, voters can use Seventy’s Build Your Own Ballot (BYOBallot) tool to input their address, make selections in a personalized balot, and make a plan to vote that can be shared with others. If you live in another state, visit Vote411 or BallotReady to learn more about the candidates on your ballot.

Applying to Vote by Mail

HOW DO I REQUEST TO VOTE BY MAIL?

In Pennsylvania, every voter has the option to vote by mail-in ballot rather than going to their polling place on election day. You may either choose a mail-in ballot or an absentee ballot to request, and you can apply online or by mail. Once you've received your ballot, you must complete and return it to your county election office. Mail-in and absentee ballot applications will be accepted by county election officials until 5 p.m. on the Tuesday before the election (May 11th, 2021). Voters in other states should check the website of their state election agency for details and deadlines.

WHAT IF I CAN'T APPLY ONLINE OR I CAN'T PRINT THE FORM?

Contact your local county election office. They will send you an application in the mail which you can return by mail or in-person to your county election office.

ONCE I MAIL MY APPLICATION IN, HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO RECEIVE MY BALLOT? WILL I GET IT IN TIME FOR THE ELECTION(S)?

In Pennsylvania, the amount of time it will take for a county to process a mail-in ballot application and send a ballot to a voter will vary. Due to this new option for all voters and COVID-19 health concerns, some counties are receiving unprecedented numbers of mail-in ballot applications. Seventy encourages individual voters to first track their application and ballot using this online tool. The second option is to call your county election office directly to confirm your mail-in application or ballot status. Voters in other states may have other options available, including contacting their local elections office.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I APPLIED TO VOTE BY MAIL BUT DID NOT RECEIVE A BALLOT?

It can take several days for an application to be received and processed by your county elections office, especially if you applied by mailing a paper application. You can check the status of your mail-in ballot online, or you can call your county elections office. If you still have not received your mail-in ballot, you can request a replacement ballot from your county election office up until election day. Voters will be required to fill out a form to request a replacement ballot. Homebound voters (ill, elderly, disabled) can use the Designated Agent form for someone else to pick up the replacement ballot for them.

NOTE: The automated emails sent to voters regarding mail-in ballot applications and ballots do not always accurately indicate when an application was processed or when a ballot was sent or received. With regard to your ballot, the dates in the automated email and the state’s online status tool are generated by the production of the barcode label before your ballot is mailed and, after you return your ballot, when that barcode is scanned by election officials. Barcode production and scanning does not always align to when ballots are being delivered and received through the mail. (Barcodes are tied only to you as a voter and NOT to the selections on your ballot.)

If more than a week has passed since your application was processed and you have yet to receive your ballot, you can call your county elections office to request a replacement.

I VOTED BY ABSENTEE OR MAIL-IN BALLOT IN THE LAST ELECTION. DO I NEED TO APPLY AGAIN?

Yes. The permanent mail-in ballot list is for each calendar year. Voters must reapply each year to receive mail-in ballots for any elections (i.e. primary, general, and/or special) that take place during that same year. Voters can check their registration status here and track their mail-in application status using this online tool. If the site reads 2021 PRIMARY ELECTION, the voter should be confident they'll be receiving a ballot for the May 18th election.

CAN I EMAIL MY APPLICATION FOR A MAIL-IN BALLOT?

No. Your local election officials must have the original signed document in order to process your application. You can return your application by mail or drop it off at your county election office during business hours.

HOW DO I KNOW I AM ON THE LIST TO RECEIVE A MAIL-IN BALLOT THIS SPRING?

The permanent mail-in ballot list is for each calendar year. Voters must reapply each year to receive mail-in ballots for any elections (i.e. primary, general, and/or special) that take place during that same year.

Voters can call or email their commissioner to verify that they are on the permanent mail-in ballot list. Another way to verify "permanent" status is by checking Pennsylvania's site.

The Committee of Seventy encourages voters to track their application and ballot using this online tool. If the site reads 2021 PRIMARY ELECTION, the voter should feel confident they'll be receiving a ballot for the May 18th primary election.

HOW DO I VERIFY I AM ON THE PERMANENT MAIL-IN BALLOT LIST?

The permanent mail-in ballot list is for each calendar year. Voters must reapply each year to receive mail-in ballots for any elections (i.e. primary, general, and/or special) that take place during that same year.

Voters can call or email their commissioner to verify that they are on the permanent mail-in ballot list. Another way to verify "permanent" status is by checking Pennsylvania's site. If the site reads 2021 PRIMARY ELECTION, the voter should feel confident they'll be receiving a ballot for the May 18th primary election.

CAN INDEPENDENT AND THIRD-PARTY VOTERS SIGN UP FOR MAIL-IN BALLOTS FOR A PRIMARY ELECTION?

Yes. Pennsylvania has closed primaries, which means that voters can only vote for candidates in the same political party named in your voter registration. As an Independent or a third-party voter, you will be unable to vote for candidates in the two major political parties. You will, however, be able to vote on the three statewide ballot questions and on any other ballot questions in your county. Learn more about the statewide ballot questions here.

HOW DO I UPDATE MY ADDRESS BEFORE THE ELECTION?

You can update your address for your ballot online. Be sure to update your address 15 days before the election (May 3rd, 2021).

I NO LONGER WISH TO VOTE BY MAIL-IN OR ABSENTEE BALLOT IN THE GENERAL ELECTION. HOW DO I CANCEL MY APPLICATION?

In order to cancel your application for a mail-in ballot, you must complete, sign and return a form which can be found on your county election office's website. Alternatively, you can call your local county office for further instructions.

Voting by Mail

IF I HAVE PROBLEMS FILLING OUT MY BALLOT OR MAKE A MISTAKE, WHO DO I CALL? HOW CAN I GET ANSWERS FOR THE QUESTIONS I USUALLY ASK AT MY VOTING LOCATION?

Call your county elections office. The barcodes included on the ballot return envelopes allow county election officials to send you a replacement ballot if needed and cancel the original.

NOTE: High call volume in some counties may require waiting on hold or making multiple calls.

DO I NEED TO FILL OUT MY MAIL-IN OR ABSENTEE BALLOT IN THE PRESENCE OF AN ELECTION OFFICIAL IN ORDER FOR MY BALLOT TO BE VALID?

No. The declaration envelope is the voter's affirmation, under penalty of perjury, that they are the person who completed it.

HOW SOON AFTER RECEIVING MY BALLOT CAN I DROP IT OFF OR MAIL IT TO MY COUNTY ELECTION OFFICE?

You can turn in your ballot the same day (during business hours) or mail it back the same day. There is no waiting period. Be sure to turn your ballot in on or before May 18th, 2021.

CAN I HAND IN MY BALLOT IN-PERSON? WHERE?

Yes. Voters should check their county website for more information. Make sure to sign your ballot and seal it in the privacy envelope that it came with. Voters must hand in their own ballots.

The Committee of Seventy's website has a list of any additional drop-off locations by county. This list will continue to be updated.

CAN I HAND IN MY BALLOT IN-PERSON IN PHILADELPHIA COUNTY? WHERE?

In Philadelphia County, the following drop box locations will be available starting April 20th through Election Day. These boxes will be accessible 24/7 until Election Day. On Election Day, the boxes will be closed and sealed at 8 PM, the same time polling places close. Any voter can bring their voted ballot to one of the drop-off offices below:

  • City Hall (South Broad Apron) 1400 John F Kennedy Blvd 19107
  • Riverview Place (Columbus Boulevard side of the building) 520 N Columbus Blvd 19123
  • The Eastern State Penitentiary 2027 Fairmount Ave 19130
  • Markward Playground 400 S Taney St 19146
  • Pelbano Rec. Center 8101 Bustleton Ave 19152
  • Ford PAL Rec. Center 609 Snyder Ave 19148
  • Smith Playground 2100 S 24th St 19145
  • Vogt Rec. Center 4131 Unruh Ave 19135
  • Independence Branch Library 18 S 7th St 19106
  • Dorothy Emanuel Rec. Center 8500 Pickering Street 19150
  • Pleasant Playground 305 Slocum Street 19119
  • Shissler Rec. Center 1800 Blair Street 19125
  • Chalfont Playground 4382 Deerpath Lane 19154
  • Stenton Playground 4600 N. 16th St 19140

The Committee of Seventy's website will continue to be updated with any additional drop-off locations by county.

CAN I COLLECT AND RETURN BALLOTS FOR OTHERS?

No. Voters must turn in their own ballots.

CAN I COLLECT AND RETURN BALLOTS FOR MEMBERS OF MY HOUSEHOLD?

No. Voters must turn in their own ballots.

I WANT SOMEONE ELSE TO TURN IN MY BALLOT FOR ME. IS THERE AN AFFIDAVIT I CAN SIGN TO AUTHORIZE SOMEONE ELSE TO DROP OFF MY BALLOT?

A voter who cannot return their own absentee or mail-in ballot because they are disabled or ill can certify another person to return their ballot if they and the other person complete these forms. These "Designated Agent" forms must be submitted with the ballot being returned. A "Designated Agent" can only return mail-in ballots for voters in one household. These forms can also be used for voters unable to drop-off their ballots because they are in a hospital, senior center, nursing home or other similar facility.

HOW DO I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT MY MAIL-IN BALLOT HAS BEEN RECEIVED? HOW DO I KNOW THAT MY VOTE HAS ACTUALLY BEEN COUNTED?

There is a sticker on the return envelope of your ballot that has a barcode on it. The barcode is scanned when it is received by your county election officials. You can check online to determine if your ballot has been scanned.

WHEN IS THE LATEST I CAN TURN IN MY COMPLETED BALLOT?

By mail: Your mail-in ballot must be received by your county election office by 8 p.m. on election day, May 18th. In-person: You must return your mail-in ballot to your county election office by 8 p.m. on election day, May 18th.

Any voter who has received an absentee or mail-in ballot but would rather vote in-person, may bring their un-voted ballot to their polling place, return to the polling place official who will "spoil" that ballot and will be allowed to vote on the machine. Any voter who requested an absentee or mail-in ballot but did not receive it, may go to their polling place and vote by a provisional ballot. Please wear a mask.

DO I NEED A STAMP TO VOTE BY MAIL IN PA?

No. Your mail-in ballot will include the postage paid for by the state. You will need to pay for postage for mail-in applications and voter registration forms, however.

WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH NAKED BALLOTS?

Put your ballot in the smaller secrecy envelope and seal it. This is the envelope that only says “Official Election Ballot” Put the smaller secrecy envelope in the larger ballot-return envelope. This is the envelope with “Business Reply Mail” on the front. Sign it, seal it, send it or drop it off. Ballots without the secrecy envelope or without your signature and date will be invalid. #NoNakedBallots #DressYourBallot

CAN THE POSTAL SERVICE HANDLE THE SURGE OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS?

The staff of the United States Postal Service receives special training for handling election and campaign mail. They also meet with election officials in each county on a regular basis to discuss the upcoming election and how to manage the influx of mail. Seventy urges all voters to return their ballots as soon as possible to ensure arrival before the deadline.

WILL MY MAIL-IN BALLOT BE COUNTED? DO THEY ONLY COUNT MAIL-IN BALLOTS IF THE ELECTION IS CLOSE?

Your mail-in ballot will be counted. All legitimate votes are counted whether the election is close or not.

WHEN WILL MY MAIL-IN BALLOT BE COUNTED?

Counties are allowed to begin counting mail-in ballots on election day, not before. This may delay final election results for days or even weeks.

WILL I GET A STICKER IF I VOTE BY MAIL?

This will vary by county, but most likely not. Some states include stickers with the ballot while some do not give stickers to anyone. You can contact your county election office to find out if voters receive stickers, if you will receive a sticker for voting by mail, and if one can be sent to you.

Life Cycle of a Mail-In Ballot

Life Cycle of a Mail-In Ballot

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Voting In-Person

WHAT SAFETY PRECAUTIONS WILL BE USED TO PROTECT VOTERS AND POLL WORKERS FROM COVID-19 ON ELECTION DAY?

Voters and poll workers may be required to wear face masks depending on your location. In Pennsylvania, poll workers will be provided with face shields, face masks, and gloves as well as hand sanitizers and disinfectants. Cleaning products, hand sanitizers, masks, and disinfectants will be provided to voters to allow for continuous cleaning of frequently touched surfaces. Plexiglass barriers may also be available for check-in tables for further protection.

WHERE DO I GO TO VOTE IN PENNSYLVANIA?

Polling locations have not been finalized in Pennsylvania due to complications created by COVID-19. County election officials are working to finalize polling locations. For updates specific to your county, contact your local county election office.

WHEN ARE POLLS OPEN?

Polls are open from 7am to 8pm on election day, May 18th. You are allowed to line up before 7am but cannot cast your vote until the location is officially open. If you are in line by 8pm, the polling location will remain open and you will be allowed to vote.

HOW DO I VOTE IN-PERSON?

On election day, go to your polling place, check-in with a poll worker, and you will be directed to a private area to cast your vote. How you cast your vote will vary by polling location and county. If you have any questions or concerns, contact your county election office before election day or ask a poll worker at your polling location on election day.

CAN I TURN IN MY COMPLETED MAIL-IN OR ABSENTEE BALLOT TO MY POLLING PLACE?

No. Mail-in and absentee ballots must be returned to your county election office.

Any voter who has received an absentee or mail-in ballot but would rather vote in-person, may bring their un-voted ballot to their polling place, return to the polling place official who will "spoil" that ballot and will be allowed to vote on the machine. Any voter who requested an absentee or mail-in ballot but did not receive it, may go to their polling place and vote by a provisional ballot. Please wear a mask.

DOES MY MAIL-IN OR ABSENTEE BALLOT NEED TO BE BLANK IN ORDER TO BE VOIDED SO I CAN VOTE IN-PERSON?

No. Your ballot can be blank, completely filled out, or partially filled out and still be voided. To have your ballot voided and vote in-person, you must bring all the envelopes and fill out and sign a declaration stating you relenquish your ballot.

WILL I VOTE WITH A VOTING MACHINE?

This depends on your polling location. Contact your local polling location to find out how votes will be recorded. However, in the past two years, all machines in the state of Pennsylvania have been changed to leave a paper trail to record your ballot. If you are confused about how to vote using the method available at your polling location, please ask a poll worker for help.

WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING WITH ME TO VOTE IF I HAVE AN ABSENTEE BALLOT?

Any voter who has received an absentee or mail-in ballot but would rather vote in-person, may bring their un-voted ballot to their polling place, return to the polling place official who will "spoil" that ballot and will be allowed to vote on the machine. Any voter who requested an absentee or mail-in ballot but did not receive it, may go to their polling place and vote by a provisional ballot. Please wear a mask.

If you already completed and returned an absentee ballot, you may not vote at a polling place.

WILL I NEED AN ID TO VOTE IN PENNSYLVANIA?

You will only need an ID if this is your first time voting in your precinct.

WHAT KIND OF ID SHOULD I BRING TO VOTE IN PENNSYLVANIA?

You are only required to show ID if this is your first time voting in your precinct. Acceptable forms of identification are a Pennsylvania driver's license, student ID, or a U.S. Passport. Acceptable forms of non-photo identification are documents that include your name or address such as a bank statement or utility bill.

WHAT PROTECTIONS ARE IN PLACE TO PREVENT A PERSON FROM VOTING BY MAIL-IN OR ABSENTEE BALLOT AND THEN VOTING AT A POLLING LOCATION?

When a person has registered to vote by mail-in or absentee ballot, their voter record indicates they have registered. Poll workers are provided with a check-in book that verifies a voter's registration status as well as their mail-in or absentee ballot requests. If a voter who has registered to vote by mail-in or absentee ballot goes to their polling place, that will be noted next to their name in the poll book. They either need to bring the ballot with them, including the envelope, and have it spoiled (destroyed) by the poll workers to vote, or they will be asked to vote a provisional ballot. If no other ballot had been cast by the voter, that ballot would then be opened and counted.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I AM ASKED TO FILL OUT A PROVISIONAL BALLOT?

You may be asked to fill out a provisional ballot if your voter registration status cannot be verified for any reason. A provisional ballot is not counted on Election Day. Instead, it is returned to the Elections Division and as part of the Return Board process, and reviewed to ensure that the individual had not voted by mail-in or absentee ballot, or at the polling place. Your vote will still count if your provisional ballot is approved.

IF I NEED TO VOTE BY PROVISIONAL BALLOT, WHAT KIND OF INFORMATION OR ID IS NEEDED?

None. If a voter whose signature box is marked “ID Required” is unable or unwilling to provide one of the approved forms of identification listed above, that voter MUST be permitted to vote by Provisional Ballot. The elections board will decide if your Provisional Ballot will be approved.

Poll Worker FAQ

WHAT IS A POLL WORKER?

Poll workers are the frontline workers in our elections -- the people you see at your local polling place who check-in voters, operate the voting machines, and help address voters’ questions and concerns on Election Day. Typically, each election precinct is overseen by five poll workers: the Judge of Elections, the Majority and Minority Inspectors, a Clerk, and a Machine Inspector. Philadelphia is planning to fully staff all 1,703 precincts grouped within more than 700 polling places for the general election. This means 8,500 people will be needed in neighborhoods across the city.

WHAT DO POLL WORKERS DO?

With polls open between 7 AM and 8 PM, poll workers are the first to arrive and the last to leave. On May 18th, workers may need to work well after 8 PM if there are lines of voters waiting to cast ballots. Preparation involves attending training (offered online and in-person in Philadelphia) and studying materials ahead of Election Day. A poll worker’s duties can differ depending on their position but may include greeting voters at a check-in table, providing instructions on how to use the voting machine, and/or working to ensure that health and safety precautions are followed.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO BE A POLL WORKER?

  • A registered voter in the county
  • You must be 18 years old in most circumstances. There are options for 17-year-olds, but they must be separately certified.
  • Committeepeople can serve as poll workers but must remain politically neutral
  • Retirees from government or school districts are eligible
  • Former government employees are eligible but must have left the job more than 60 days before the election
  • District court judges, notary publics, and members of the National Guard
  • Employees of PASSHE schools are eligible
  • Ex-offenders are eligible to be poll workers

WHO IS NOT ELIGIBLE TO BE A POLL WORKER?

  • You cannot be a current government employee with local, state, or federal government agencies, with the exception of District court judges, notary publics, and members of the National Guard
  • You cannot be an employee of a school district or a charter school
  • You cannot be an elected official or candidate

HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M QUALIFIED?

The Judge of Election and Inspectors are elected positions and can only serve within their own election precinct. For other positions, county election officials fill vacancies, a task that’s become far more challenging due to the pandemic. The only requirement to be appointed to fill a vacancy by your count is that you must be a registered voter within the county.

NOTE: Government officials and employees are not allowed to serve as poll workers.

WHERE DO I SIGN UP TO BE A POLL WORKER?

Go to VotesPA to sign up.

WHEN WILL I HEAR BACK IF I AM SELECTED TO BE A POLL WORKER?

County boards are starting to fill the slots soon, so you may hear back quickly, but you may hear as late as the Sunday before the election. Counties will try to place you in your home district. You cannot request a spot or request to be placed with a friend. Applying does not guarantee you a position as a paid poll worker.

HOW WILL MY COUNTY REACH OUT TO ME TO CONFIRM MY SELECTION AS A POLL WORKER?

In Philadelphia County, you will receive a call, and we can confirm that the official will leave a voicemail message. Other counties may reach out with a different method.

DO I GET PAID?

Yes. Every poll worker in Pennsylvania is paid, with some counties like Philadelphia providing a stipend to attend training. The base pay in Philadelphia was recently increased for the general election to $200 with another $50 for training. This increase was due to the health risks associated with working at polls and the need to fill vacancies.

HOW LONG IS A WORKING DAY FOR POLL WORKERS?

Plan to arrive at 6:15 in the morning and stay until the equipment is returned in the evening. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. In Montgomery County, you can split your day. In other counties, you should be prepared to work the full day. When you are contacted by your county, they will let you know what you should expect.

CAN I LEAVE DURING THE DAY TO GO VOTE?

You should plan to vote by mail. If you are not staffed at your polling place you may not have time to leave and travel to your polling place. You can sign up to vote by mail here. If you are assigned to your own polling place, you can vote in person. If voting in person is very important to you and you do not want to cast a mail-in ballot, it may not make sense for you to be a poll worker.

WHY DO WE NEED POLL WORKERS?

In addition to just making Election Day possible, poll workers are critically important to ensure no unregistered voter is able to vote. Poll workers manage issues such as someone’s name not appearing in the poll book or if a voter decided to vote at the polls instead of returning their mail-in ballot. In addition, thousands of voters will be seeing new voting machines for the first time and may require additional instruction to cast their ballot successfully. There are numerous instances where even a little confusion or missing piece of information can make or break someone’s ability to vote successfully.

WHAT MAKES THIS ELECTION DIFFERENT?

Poll workers will be critical on May 18th to not only make sure every registered voter can cast their ballot but to keep everyone at the polls safe. Poll workers will have the added duty in ensuring social distancing and other health and safety precautions are followed.

WHAT ARE THE COVID-19 SAFETY PRECAUTIONS FOR POLL WORKERS?

Being a poll worker is not without risk. Please visit our Poll Worker FAQ page for more information.

  • Voters are not required to wear masks.
  • Poll workers ARE required to wear masks
  • Gloves, face shields, and hand sanitizer will be provided.

DO YOU EXPECT FEWER PEOPLE TO VOTE IN PERSON?

Yes. However, because of the COVID-19 precautions, it will take longer to process each person.

HOW CAN I LEARN MORE AND SIGN UP TO BE A POLL WORKER IN PHILADELPHIA?

Thousands of poll workers are needed in Philadelphia and across the region. The Committee of Seventy encourages interested individuals to sign up online to learn more. Not every applicant will be utilized in a given county, but other volunteer opportunities and ways to support the election are available. The Poll Worker Caucus Facebook group is also open to current and prospective poll workers in Philadelphia and southeast Pennsylvania to raise questions and exchange ideas and resources ahead of the election.

WHAT IF I LIVE IN NEW JERSEY OR A PHILADELPHIA SUBURB AND WANT TO VOLUNTEER?

Anyone interested in southeast Pennsylvania (and registered to vote) should sign up online.