The novel coronavirus outbreak has impacted all of us, including the state and county offices in charge of elections. You may encounter long wait-times on phone lines, or you'll have to leave a message. We have vetted these questions with senior staff who administer the elections. Please contact official City election offices if you need confirmation of our content or have more questions.
No Printer? No Problem.
Online applications for registrations or ballots are faster. Sometimes you may need to download the forms. If you don't have a printer, call your county elections office and ask them to mail a form(s). More than likely, you will get voicemail. Make sure you do the following: spell your name and your mailing address' street name. Repeat your telephone number twice, so they can reach you if they have questions.
Mail-in Ballots - You Get to Apply & Change Your Mind
Q. What if I change my mind and want to vote on the machine after I get a mail-in ballot?
Good news. You can go to the poll and vote on the machine. Do not mail the ballot. Take your entire ballot packet to the poll with you. Tell the poll worker you want to "spoil" your ballot. You will give them your packet and sign a document stating that you changed your mind. You will then be allowed to vote on the machine. Apply today. You have the power to choose.
Are Mail-in Ballots Safe and Secure?
Q. I'm concerned that my ballot could be thrown away or not counted. How will I be able to check the status?
Voters in five states use vote-by-mail as their main way to cast their ballots. Your ballot has a unique tracking number, which was assigned when you applied. You may contact Philadelphia's Board of Elections at 215-686-3469 or use the online tool to check the status of your ballot.
We understand that you may have some concerns with everything that's going on with the Post Office. However, if you apply early, you can avoid the rush. Pennsylvania will begin to mail ballots in September and the beginning of October.
This Vice article states that the changes at post offices "would only be a problem for voters who waited until the last minute to send back their ballots."
Mail-in Ballots (The Right Form)
Q. Why does the State's website say that I should choose an absentee ballot if I categorize myself as sick, disabled, or traveling and cannot make it to the poll on Election Day? People are telling me that it's OK to use the mail-in ballot application and that I don't have to provide any reasons. Who's right?
A qualified voter (registered) may apply for a mail-in ballot without providing an excuse. This rule does not apply to military and overseas voters.
Here's the legal reason. The State Constitution contains a passage that makes sure that certain people do not lose their right to vote because they cannot physically make it to the polls.
Travelers (includes college students), people who are ill, and disabled people (some but not all) fall into these categories. However, lawmakers passed, and the governor signed a law on March 27th (Act 12) that made it OK for registered voters to choose the mail-in ballot option without having their vote challenged.
Mail-in Ballots (Steps after I Apply)
Q. Will the City be offering drop-off locations for ballots before the election?
We will post location and availability times of drop off locations when the City publishes the list.
Q. What happens if I mail my ballot too close to the November 3rd deadline and am unsure if my county received it?
Check the Election Ballot Status page to see if it indicates that your ballot was received. Also, look for a confirmation email in your Inbox and SPAM folders. There are two different Deadlines:
Deliver in person by Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020, at 8:00 p.m
Postmarked by Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020, delivered to the office by Friday, November 6th
If you mailed your ballot and are not sure it will be postmarked by November 3rd or delivered by Friday, Nov., you may go to the poll on November 3rd. Please make sure you tell the poll workers that you mailed your ballot to prevent them from directing you to the machine. You will then be allowed to vote by provisional ballot.
Q. I heard that it's illegal to touch someone else's ballot. Is that true? How can I help my sick or disabled loved one?
Yes, it is against the law to handle someone else's ballot, even if you're depositing it in a dropbox or mailbox. However, a trusted family member or friend may deliver someone else's ballot to the County Board of Elections office, mailbox, or a dropbox if you both must sign the Declaration form.
Note: If you are not sick or disabled, no one is allowed to touch your ballot.
Q. I never got my ballot? What do I do?
If your ballot does not arrive, you will have to go to the poll to vote. The poll book may indicate that you applied for a mail-in ballot. In that case, you will vote on a provisional ballot, not the machine. If it does not state that an application was made, you will be directed to vote on a machine.
Q. What if I change my mind about who I voted for after I mailed my ballot? Can I vote at the poll to vote for somebody else?
No. Mail-in voting is the same as voting on a machine at the poll.
Emergency Circumstances after the Mail-in Ballot Application Deadline - Same Day Service
Q- What if I didn't apply for a mail-in ballot but can't make it to the poll on Election Day because I'm sick, disabled, or traveling?
Emergencies After October 27th Mail-in Ballot Deadline: You may apply for an emergency absentee ballot if you know you will be ill, disabled, or traveling outside of your voting district and did not apply for or failed to receive a mail-in or absentee ballot. A trusted friend or family member may pick up and drop off your ballot. Both of you must fill out and sign the declaration form.
Check back for details about the in-person procedure as we get closer to October 27th.
Q. Voter registrations have always had to be submitted 30 days before the election. Why has it been changed to 15 days?
Act 77, a new law signed in 2019, gives Pennsylvanians more time to register. However, it tightens the restrictions on when the applications can be received. Postmarks don't count.
In other words, your application must be in the online system or in their hands by Monday, October 19th, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.
Note: You can apply online if you do not have a valid PA Driver's License or PennDOT ID (Non-Driver's license). Use the last four digits
Coronavirus Outbreak Office Closings: We are unsure of when or if Philadelphia County offices will be open to the public. Currently, you cannot submit your application in person. Applying online or downloading the application and mailing it are your two options. Call the Philadelphia City Commissioners Offices and leave a message if you have questions.
Q. I don't have a printer. How can a get a voter registration form?
Call the Philadelphia Board of Elections at (215) 686-3469. Make sure you spell your name and mailing address as well as repeat your phone number.
Q. Can I still register online if I don't have a Pennsylvania Driver's License or PennDOT ID (non-driver's license)?
Yes. You can use the last four digits of your social security number. However, your county Board of Elections will send you a letter with instructions to complete your registration. Your new or updated registration will not be finalized until after you do the steps in the letter.
Q. Will the polls be open?
Yes. Polls open on November 3, 2020, at 7 am and close at 8 pm. We do not know at this point if some polling locations will change. Check the City Commissioner's website for the latest poll locations. You may want to consider applying for mail-in voting to provide you with a safety net. Watch our video and then find the location of your poll.>>
NEW - Early, In-person Voting Locations:
Philadelphia will have early in-person voting locations, which will be opening very soon. We will post the information when it's official.