HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The Pennsylvania Department of State has released instructions about how to apply for a mail-in ballot and successfully vote in the 2020 election.
“Mail-in or absentee voting offers eligible voters a secure, convenient, accessible and, during the COVID-19 pandemic, an especially safe option of voting in the privacy of their own homes. But it’s important that voters follow all the steps necessary so their mail-in ballot will be counted,” said Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar.
If you are already registered to vote, you are eligible to vote by mail. You also do not need to provide a reason to vote by mail. If you need to check your registration status, Click Here. If you are not registered to vote, Click Here.
To apply for a mail-in ballot, Click Here. They offer an online application or a downloadable application you can print and return to your county’s board of elections. You can apply up until 5 p.m. on October 27th but the PA Dept. of State recommends doing so as soon as possible to give yourself plenty of time to receive, fill out and return your ballot. If you applied for a mail-in ballot in the primary election this year and opted in to the permanent annual mail ballot list then you do not need to reapply and you can check the status of your ballot here.
Once the ballots are finalized and printed, they will be mailed out. The Dept. of State says voters should pay close attention to the instructions on their ballot and follow them carefully to avoid mistakes that may result in their ballot not being counted. There is a system involving envelopes that is explained by the Dept. of State:
“Seal the ballot in the white inner secrecy envelope that says, “official ballot.” Make sure not to make any stray marks on the envelope.
Then seal the inner secrecy envelope in the pre-addressed outer return envelope where the voter must sign.
Complete and sign the voter’s declaration on the outside of the outer return envelope.
-If the ballot is not enclosed in both envelopes, it will not be counted.
-If the voter does not sign the outer envelope, the ballot will not be counted.”PA DEPT. OF STATE
Ballots can be mailed to your county’s board of elections. They must be postmarked by 8 p.m. on November 3rd and received by 5 p.m. on November 6th. Postage is pre-paid by the Dept. of State.
You may also return your ballot by hand to your election office as indicated by the county map. Ballots returned this way need to be received by 8 p.m. on election day and some counties will have a drop-off box available. Check your county’s website for more information on delivering by hand. Votespa.com says they will provide a list of counties with drop-off locations as the information becomes available.
The Dept. of State also provided some rules for mail-in voting:
- Voters are only allowed to return their own ballot. Exceptions include voters with a disability who have a person, authorized in writing, returning their ballot or voters who are hospitalized or require an emergency absentee ballot.
- If a voter votes by mail, they may not vote in person at the polls on election day.
- If a voter applies to vote by mail but then chooses not to, they may vote in person at the polls by using a provisional ballot and it will be verified that they did not vote by mail before the provisional ballot is counted. If a voter chooses this option, they must bring the entire, un-voted mail-in ballot (including both envelopes) to the polls to have it voided.
Alternatives to mail-in voting:
Voters have the option to visit their county election office and request a ballot, fill it out and return it all at once.
Voters also have the option to vote at the polls as long as they have not already voted by mail or in person beforehand. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day, November 3rd. Voters are asked to wear a mask and follow social distancing instructions. The polling places will be provided with PPE and other equipment to make sure voters can safely vote in person.
For any other information, please visit votespa.com.