Looking for More Details?
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.
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 primary 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 or use the online tool to check the status of your ballot.
We understand that you may have some concerns about voting in this new way. The Brennen Center for Justice published an article titled - The False Narrative of Vote-by-Mail Fraud - that may shed some light on common misconceptions.
Mail-in Ballots (Steps after I Apply)
Q. Will the City be offering drop-off locations for ballots before the election?
The City has placed one drop box outside City Hall, located on the south portal side of the building and another at the Voter Registration Office, 520 N Columbus Blvd, 6th Floor, Phila., PA 19123. You can deposit your ballot in the box any time (24/7) up to 8 pm on June 2nd. There will be drop off locations throughout the City on Election Day, June 2nd from 7 am to 8 pm. Visit the City Commissioners' website for other locations.
Note: Drop boxes may not be available after June 2nd. We are waiting for information from the Commissioners' Office.
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 just depositing it in a dropbox. A trusted family member or friend may deliver someone else's ballot to a dropbox. You both must sign the Declaration form. No printer? No problem. Carefully copy the words down on a sheet of paper for both of you to sign. You will need to present the form if an election staffer asks for it.
After you both sign the form, you may place the other person's signed and sealed ballot in a dropbox.
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 happens if I mail my ballot too close to the June 9th deadline and am not sure if my county received it?
Your ballot must be postmarked no later than June 2nd. Your ballot has to be received by June 9th, 2020, at 5 pm. If the City receives it before June 9th, but the postmark is June 3rd or later, your vote will not count. Look for a confirmation email in your Inbox and SPAM folders. Check the Election Ballot Status page to see if it indicates that your ballot was received.
Q. What if I decide I want to vote at the poll after I apply for a mail-in ballot?
If you do not mail your ballot back to your county election office, you may go to the poll to vote on Election Day--June 2, 2020. You will vote using a provisional ballot, not on a machine. Your polling location may change because of coronavirus concerns. Check your polling place.
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. The book at your polling place will state that you have voted by mail. See the question about mailing your ballot close to the deadline if the poll book does not indicate that you have voted by mail.
Q. Why am I only allowed to vote for ballot questions during the primary when other people get to vote for candidates?
Pennsylvania is a "Closed Primary" state, which means that our state law stipulates that you can only vote for Democratic or Republican candidates for office in primary elections. Therefore, you must be registered under the Democratic or Republican party if you wish to vote for a person for office during a primary. If you're a registered under any other party or none at all, you can only vote on ballot questions.
The deadline to register or make changes to your registration is May 18, 2020, at 11:59 pm.
However, you can vote for candidates from any party in the November 3rd, 2020 Election because it is a General Election, not a primary.
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 May 26th Deadline: Any voter who has not applied for a mail-in or absentee ballot may apply for an emergency absentee ballot if they are unable to vote at the polls because they are ill, disabled, or traveling outside of their voting district.
Here's the special procedure for the June 2nd Primary:
Walk-in Hours: Friday, May 29th, Saturday, May 30th, Sunday, May 31st, Monday, June 1st - 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Tuesday, June 2nd - 7:00 am to 8 pm.
ID: You can use a PA Driver's License or PennDot ID. If you don't have either, don't worry. You can use the last four digits of your Social Security number.
Location Change Due to Protests: Voter Registration Office - 520 N Columbus Blvd, 6th Floor, Phila., PA 19123 (Check back for additional addresses.)
The office will provide an application if you haven't brought your own. Tip - Your time will go faster if you fill out the application before you go to the office. After the application is complete, a staffer will process it and provide you with a ballot. Then, you vote using the ballot and return it.
If you're disabled (temporarily or permanently), you may have a trusted family member or friend pick up the application/ballot for you. You both must sign the Designation of Agent form. No printer, no problem. Carefully copy the words down on a sheet of paper for both of you to sign. Your friend or family member must show the form to the office staffer.
We were able to obtain detailed instructions to share with you. You may try phoning the County Board of Elections Office (Room 142) for more details, although it may be challenging to get through because they're processing ballots.
Q. Will the polls be open?
Yes. Polls open on June 2, 2020, at 7 am and close at 8 pm. However, the poll where you normally vote may not be open. Lack of staff, limited space for social distancing, or location in a senior citizen residential building may contribute to a polling place being moved. Be aware that the poll may be further away than expected, which is another reason you may want to consider mail-in voting. Watch our video and then find the location of your poll.>>
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. However, all applications and ballots must be submitted by their deadlines. 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.
Q. Do I need to reapply if I signed up in time for the April 28th Primary that has been moved to June 2nd?
No. You do not need to reapply. Check the status of your ballot using the state's online tool.
Q. Voter registrations have always had to be submitted 30 days before the election. Why has it been changed to 15 days?
A new law signed in 2019 gave Pennsylvanians more time to register. However, it tightens the restrictions on when the applications can be received. Postmarks don't count toward the date your application to register or change registration info was received.
In other words, your application must be in the online system or in their hands by Monday, May 18th, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.
Coronavirus Outbreak Office Closings: Philadelphia County offices are not open to the public. Therefore, 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.