Did you say I have to bring a photo ID to the polls tomorrow?

Not exactly. You don’t have to bring a photo ID, but polling place officials are required by Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law to ask you to show one. You will still be able to go into the voting booth to cast your ballot if you don’t present a photo ID on Tuesday. 

Just to make it very clear: No voter has to bring a photo ID to vote in Tuesday's primary?

Some voters do have to show an ID, but not necessarily a photo ID. Current law requires that voters voting for the first time ever or voting for the first time in a new division (for example, if you moved and re-registered to vote at a new polling place) must identify themselves by showing photo or non-photo ID with their name and address (for example, a utility bill, paycheck or bank statement). This requirement is still in effect for April 24.

Can I vote for anyone I want tomorrow?

No. Tomorrow is a primary election. In a primary election – at least the way it works in Pennsylvania – you can only vote for candidates who are registered in the same political party as you. That’s because the primary determines who will be your party’s nominee or nominees in the November 6 general election. So if you’re a registered Democrat, you can’t vote for a Republican. If you’re a registered Republican, you can’t vote for a Democrat. 

I’m registered as an "independent." Can I vote tomorrow?  

Yes, but only if you live in the 169th, 186th or 197th state House districts. These three districts are holding “special elections” to fill seats left vacant in the state House of Representatives when Dennis O’Brien (169th) and Kenyatta Johnson (186th) were elected to Philadelphia City Council, and Jewell Williams (197th) became the city’s sheriff, last November. The winner of the three special elections will serve out the last eight months of their predecessors’ terms. Permanent successors will be decided in the November 6 general election.

So I can't even vote for President?

No, you can’t. And you can’t vote for any other candidates on the ballot except those running in the three special elections. By the way, independent voters and members of parties other than the Democrats and Republicans can participate in primary elections if there are ballot questions (which involve government actions that can’t happen without voter approval and are not attached to any political party).  But there are no ballot questions on the city’s April 24 ballot.  

What if I can vote but don't like any of the candidates?

You can cast a write-in vote for someone you do like. You can even vote for yourself. There’s a write-in box next to the office for which you want to write in another candidate’s name. Press the write-in button in the box. Then press the red flashing button at the top of the voting machine to open the write-in window. Write or stamp your candidate’s name on the paper inside the window. Then pull the black shutter down over the name. 

Can I only vote for one candiate for each office?

That depends on the office. On April 24, you can only vote for one person (in your political party) for President of the United States, U.S. Senator, Attorney General, Auditor General, State Treasurer, Representative in Congress, Senator in the PA General Assembly (in some, but not all, voting divisions) and Representative in the PA General Assembly. (This is the order in which the offices appear on the ballot.) You can vote for more than one person for Delegates and Alternative Delegates to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. (The ballot will tell you how many people you can vote for.) 

How can I tell if my vote counted?    

After you choose all the candidates you want to vote for – which you do by pressing the box next to the candidates’ names (red lights will go on) – you have to press the green “VOTE” button. (It’s big – you can’t miss it.) When you do, the red lights will go off. That is the signal that you are finished voting and your vote has been recorded.  

What if I forget to press the "Vote" button before I leave the voting booth?

There’s a name for people who do this: “fleeing voters.” Officials who are working at the polls are instructed to try to catch fleeing voters before they leave. If they can’t, the votes of “fleeing voters” are cleared and will not count. 

Can I stay in the voting booth as long as I want?

The Pennsylvania Election Code says that each voter (except visually impaired voters using an audio voting device) has three minutes to vote, unless no one else is waiting. We’ve never seen anyone with a stop watch, but try to be courteous to the next voter if there are long lines.  

Am I allowed to ask for help?

You are entitled to help from anyone you choose if you can’t read, write or speak English well or are unable to enter the voting booth or operate the voting machine. But that person can’t be your employer, an officer of your union or the person in charge of the polling place (who is called the “Judge of Elections”). 

I’m taking my grandmotehr to vote and she only speaks Spanish. Can I help her

You can help her. Or, if she doesn’t want you to know who she’s voting for, many polling places will have Spanish/English interpreters. If not, and your grandmother needs one, call 215-686-1500. This is also the number to call for other foreign language interpreters. 

When and where can I vote?

The polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. After you registered to vote, you should have received a card in the mail telling you where to vote. If you are unsure about the location of your polling place, visit Seventy’s online Citizen’s Guide (http://guide.seventy.org) or call 1-866-268-8603.

I moved but forgot to re-register to vote. What should I do?

You can go back and vote at your old polling place. But you can only do this once. Then you need to re-register in your new voting division. You already missed the deadline to register to vote tomorrow, but the deadline for registering to vote for the November 6 general election is Tuesday, October 9, 2012. You can download a voter registration form in English or Spanish by going to http://www.seventy.org/TakeAction_Register_to_Vote.aspx.

What if I re-registered but my name is not in the voter's list at my new polling place?

If your name does not appear in the poll book for some reason, call the Committee of Seventy’s hotline – 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) – to make sure you are at the correct polling place. Or ask the Judge of Elections to call Philadelphia’s voter registration office to confirm that you are registered. If this can’t be confirmed, you can request a provisional (paper) ballot. Your vote will count if election officials determine after the primary that you were registered correctly. 

I thought I was going to be away and already voted by absentee ballot. But it turns out I'll be home tomorrow. Can I still vote in person?

Yes, you can. But your vote won’t count twice. Your absentee ballot will be voided. 

I thought I was going to be home and didn't apply for an absentee ballot. But it turns out I'll be away tomorrow. Can I still vote?

You’re probably out of luck since you also missed the deadline for getting an emergency absentee ballot. But let’s say you are unexpectedly in the hospital and can’t get to your polling place. You can have a representative file a request for you to vote with the Court of Common Pleas in Room 285, City Hall. You can do this today or up until 8 p.m. tomorrow. There are forms you need to fill out for this to happen and they have to be notarized. Go here to get the forms:http://www.seventy.org/Elections_Absentee_and_Alternative_Ballot_Information.aspx.

I have a criminal record. Am I allowed to vote?  

In most cases, yes. You may not vote only if you have been convicted of a felony (the most serious crimes) and are currently in prison or a halfway house serving your sentence.  But if you are finished your sentence (or if you are out on probation or parole, even if you are living in a halfway house), or if you are in jail awaiting trial or serving a sentence for a misdemeanor (the less serious crimes), then you are absolutely allowed to vote.

What should I do if I don't have a permanent address?

You can still vote, although you have to provide an address. Residents who are homeless may register to vote using an address where they receive mail, such as a homeless shelter. 

I’m disabled. How can I find out if my polling place is handicapped accessible?   

In Philadelphia, the City Commissioners (who operate elections) have a list of fully accessible polling places, which they publish in local newspapers and is also available here: http://phillyelection.com/aceng.htm

That's enough for now. If I think of other questions, what should I do?

You can call us today or anytime tomorrow on our Election Day hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683). Actually you can call this number after the primary since we intend to keep it up and running for voter ID questions. 

The non-partisan Committee of Seventy wants to get more people to turn out to vote and to think about public issues. That’s why we regularly publish our HOW PHILLY WORKS series. If you know anyone who wants to subscribe to this series, they can join our e-mail list by clicking here: http://www.seventy.org/News_NewsFlash_Signup.aspx.

If you have thoughts or ideas for other topics, please e-mail us at futureofthecity@seventy.org