En Español

Election Administration in Pennsylvania

Expand All Collapse All

Election Types and Dates

Election Dates

Upcoming Primary Elections

The primary election for president, other federal offices, Governor, and other states offices is April 26, 2016.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-02-22)

25 P.S. § 2751 [link]

25 P.S. § 2753 [link]

Pennsylvania 2015 Election Calendar [link]

Upcoming General Elections

The general election for president, other federal offices, Governor, and other states offices is November 8, 2016.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-02-22)

25 P.S. § 2753 [link]

Pennsylvania 2016 Election Calendar [link]

25 P.S. § 2751 [link]

How is a nominee determined?

How is a nominee determined (caucus, primary, convention)?

Primary election.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1173919&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=1&mode=2 [link]

25 P.S. § 2754 [link]

25 P.S. § 2753 [link]

Political Party Affiliation

Can voters register by party in the state?

Yes.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

25 P.S. § 2754 [link]

Must voters be registered with a political party if they would like to vote on that party’s candidates in a partisan primary election (i.e., are primaries open or closed)?

Closed.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1173919&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=1&mode=2 [link]

25 P.S. § 299 [link]

When can a voter change or switch their party affiliation?

By the voter registration deadline. Voters must submit a voter registration application to change their party affiliation.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174115&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=1&mode=2 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 1503 [link]

Voter Registration

Who Can Vote?

What are the state's residency requirements for voters?

A person must have lived in the election district where the persons wishes to vote for at least 30 days immediately before the election.

An voter registration applicant who does not a specific address, such as a person experiencing homelessness, may indicate on the map on the voter registration application where the applicant lives. If the applicant has no permanent address, the applicant must note on the map the place where the applicant spends most of his time, which serves as the applicant's residence, and must also provide a mailing address, which may be a post office box, general delivery at a post office or a shelter where the applicant spends time.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-02-22)

25 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1301 [link]

4 Pa. Admin. Code § 183.3(a)(3) [link]

Can someone pre-register to vote if they will not be 18 years old by the next election? If so, who?

No, only someone who will be 18 by the next election may register to vote.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

25 Pa.C.S. § 1301 [link]

Can 17-year-olds who will be 18-year-olds by the general election vote in the primary?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

25 P.S. § 2811 [link]

25 P.S. § 2812 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 1301 [link]

Does the state take away the right to vote from persons convicted of certain crimes? If so, what crimes?

Yes. Voters who are confined to a penal institution for committing a felony lose the right to vote. Additionally, voters who violate any provision of Pennsylvania's Election Code lose the right to vote for 4 years from the date of conviction.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

25 Pa.C.S. § 1301(a) [link]

Mixon v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania., 759 A.2d 442 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2000) aff'd, 783 A.2d 763 (2001) (declaring unconstitutional a provision of Pennsylvania Election Code that made felons lose the right to vote for 5 years) [link]

Convicted Felons Brochure [link]

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174123&mode=2 [link]

If people lose the right to vote because of a criminal conviction, can they regain the right to vote? How?

After release from prison, persons convicted of felonies may vote. However, persons convicted of violating any part of Pennsylvania's Election Code may not register and vote for 4 years from the date of conviction.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

25 P.S. § 1301(a) [link]

Mixon v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania., 759 A.2d 442 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2000) aff'd, 783 A.2d 763 (2001) (declaring unconstitutional a provision of Pennsylvania Election Code that made felons lose the right to vote for 5 years) [link]

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174123&mode=2 [link]

Convicted Felons Brochure [link]

Voter Registration Options

Is fully online voter registration available? (i.e., can voters fill in and submit an online application without printing and signing it?)

Yes, if the voter has a PennDOT number, which is on Pennsylvania driver's license cards and Pennsylvania PennDOT ID cards. Voters without a PennDOT number may fill out an application online, but they must submit their signature by mail to complete the registration process.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

Online Registration FAQ [link]

Pennsylvania Online Voter Registration Application [link]

Does the state accept the National Mail Registration Form?

Yes.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

http://www.eac.gov/voter_resources/register_to_vote.aspx [link]

Is the state required to register voters at public assistance agencies and driver's license agencies, per the National Voter Registration Act of 1993?

Yes.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/nvra/activ_nvra.php [link]

Student-Specific Rules

Does the state have specific rules on students registering to vote or voting?

No special requirements. Students may register to vote either at the address they live at while in school or at their previous home address.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174122&mode=2 [link]

4 Pa. Code § 183.3 [link]

Voter Registration Deadlines

When is the voter registration deadline?

30 days prior to an election.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174118&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=1&mode=2 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 1326(b) [link]

How is the deadline enforced for mailed applications?

An application must be postmarked by the deadline. If the postmark is missing or illegible, then the application must be received no later than 5 days after the deadline.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

25 Pa.C.S. § 1326(b)(2) [link]

How is the deadline enforced for online applications?

An application must be submitted by 11:59pm on the day of the deadline.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=2096088&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=23&mode=2#i [link]

When must a voter make changes to their registration for the changes to be in effect before the person seeks to vote?

Generally, voters must update their registration information, such as party affiliation, by the voter registration deadline using a voter registration application. However, if a voter moves and fails to notify the county voter registration commission by the voter registration deadline, the voter may vote at the polling place of their former address by providing a written affirmation of their new address before an election official at the polling place.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-16)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1195755&mode=2 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 1324 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 1326(b) [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 1503 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 1902 [link]

Voter Registration Drives

Are there restrictions on getting voter registration forms?

Forms may be printed, but the content and paper quality of forms used must comply with department of state regulations for voter registration applications, or the forms used must have received prior approval from the secretary. Pennsylvania law requires elections officials to supply applications to persons and organizations who request them ; the Department of State’s website indicates that to request multiple state voter registration applications for voter registration drives, drives may call 1-877-868-3772 (VOTES-PA).

Source (confirmed on: 2016-02-22)

"25 Pa.C.S. § 1327(a)(8), (c)(6) [link]

Pennsylvania Secretary of State's website [link]

Does the state require any training in order to conduct voter registration drives?

No.

Does the state have restrictions on who may help others register to vote?

No.

Does the state have restrictions on paying drive workers, or additional rules related to payment?

Yes. A person may not give, solicit, or accept payment or financial incentive to obtain voter registrations if the payment or incentive is based upon the number of registrations or applications obtained. A person who violates this law commits a misdemeanor in the third degree. The violator will be fined not less than $500 or more than $2,500, imprisoned for not less than one month nor more than one year, or both. A federal court held that this law does not prohibit an organization from firing a paid canvasser for failing to secure a minimum number of voter registration applications during a particular shift (or over the course of several shifts).

Source (confirmed on: 2016-02-22)

"25 Pa.C.S. § 1713(a)-(b) [link]

Project Vote v. Kelly, 805 F. Supp. 2d 152, 170 (W.D. Pa. 2011) [link]

Are there restrictions on the voter registration drive offering something of value to a person in exchange for completing a voter registration application?

Federal law states that whoever "pays or offers to pay or accepts payment either for registration to vote or for voting shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years." At least one federal appellate court has interpreted "payment" as "intended to include forms of pecuniary value offered or given directly to an individual voter, and indicated the value should be based on "an assessment of the monetary worth of an item from the perspective of the voter receiving the item." That case held that food vouchers could be "payment."

Another example is California's Secretary of State's interpretation of the federal law to mean that "Any type of incentive is considered 'payment,' even things as seemingly innocent as cookies or admission to an entertainment event."

Source (confirmed on: 2016-02-22)

52 U.S.C. § 10307(c) [link]

United States v. Garcia, 719 F.2d 99, 102-103 (5th Cir. 1983) [link]

California Secretary of State's Guide to Voter Registration Drives, p. 11 [link]

Must the registration drive worker sign the completed voter registration application, and must the drive or canvasser place other information on applications?

Yes. Any person who assists in the completion of a registration application must sign the application and indicate the person’s address. Further, if an applicant is unable to sign the voter registration application, the applicant must make a mark before a person of the applicant's choice other than the applicant's employer or an agent of the applicant's union. That witness must put their name, address, and telephone number on the application.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-02-22)

25 Pa.C.S. § 1327(a)(3), (b)(3) [link]

Does the state have a rule requiring a receipt or other tracking information to be provided to the applicant?

No.

Are there restrictions on copying completed voter registration applications prior to submitting them to the election official, or other restrictions on data entry or disclosure?

This is not addressed in Pennsylvania law.

Is there a time limit for voter registration groups to submit the voter registration applications they collect?

No, but all completed voter registration applications must be submitted before the voter registration period ends (no later than 30 days before the election) in order for the applicant to be able to vote in that election.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-02-22)

25 Pa.C.S. § 1326 [link]

What are the consequences for failing to submit applications on time?

Pennsylvania election law does not address this issue. However, it is a misdemeanor for any person to knowingly and intentionally prevent an applicant who is a qualified elector from being registered. Punishment may include a fine not more than $10,000, imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or both.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-02-22)

25 Pa.C.S. § 1711 [link]

Same-Day Registration

Can voters register and vote on the same day (i.e., does the state offer same-day registration)?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-17)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174118&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=1&mode=2 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 1326 [link]

Voters Who Have Moved or Changed Their Name

Can people vote if they moved, but did not update their voter registration with their new address?

If a voter moves and fails to notify the county voter registration commission by the voter registration deadline, the voter may vote at the polling place of their former residence by providing a written affirmation of their new address before an election official at the polling place.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-17)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1195755&mode=2 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 1902 [link]

Can people vote if they have changed their name, but did not update their voter registration with their new name?

If a voter does not change their name before the voter registration deadline, they may vote using their old name.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-17)

Interview with Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office [link]

Language, Literacy, and Disability Access

Language and Literacy Access

Does the state have any places that must provide election materials in languages other than English, per Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

Yes. Berks County, Lehigh County, and Philadelphia County must provide election materials in Spanish.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-18)

http://www.census.gov/rdo/pdf/2011_26293.pdf [link]

Does the state have any other rules about providing election materials in languages other than English?

Under Pennsylvania law, in places covered by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, the Secretary must conduct an educational campaign that informs organizations and individuals within that language minority group of the availability of bilingual voter registration applications and encourages voter registration. In other places that have a single minority group, the Secretary may choose to print bilingual voter registration applications.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-18)

25 Pa.C.S.. § 1327)(a)(6) [link]

Who can help a voter with reading assistance or translation if they can't vote on their own?

Under Section 208 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, any voter who needs help when voting because of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write may be helped by a person of the voter's choice, other than the voter's employer, an agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter's union. Under Pennsylvania law, an election judge also cannot assist a voter.

To receive literacy assistance under Pennsylvania law, the voter must apply at least 10 days before an election to a registrar, a clerk, or the commission and ask them to enter onto the voter's registration card the exact nature of the voter's illiteracy condition. If the condition is not entered on the registration card, the voter may receive assistance by completing a declaration at the polls.

A voter who cannot complete an absentee ballot without assistance may receive assistance so long as either (1) the voter has already gone through the process of having recorded on their registration card the exact nature of their condition or (2) the voter submits with the application for an official absentee ballot a statement describing exact nature of the condition and saying that the voter believes the condition will continue to be present when voting. After meeting this requirement and receiving the absentee ballot, the voter may choose someone to help them complete the absentee ballot, so long as the assistant is not the voter's employer or agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter's union.

Additionally, a person may receive assistance completing a voter registration application. If a person receives such assistance, the assistant must write on the application the assistant's name and address.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-18)

25 P.S. § 3058 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 1504 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 1327(a)(3) [link]

25 P.S. § 3146.6a (absentee assistance, confirmed in an interview with the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth to apply to illiterate persons in addition to persons with disabilities) [link]

Disability Access

Who can help a voter with a disability if they can't vote on their own?

Under Section 208 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, any voter who needs help when voting because of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write may be helped by a person of the voter's choice, other than the voter's employer, an agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter's union. Under Pennsylvania law, an election judge also cannot assist a voter.

To receive disability assistance under Pennsylvania law, the voter must apply at least 10 days before an election to a registrar, a clerk, or the commission to enter onto the voter's registration card the exact nature of the voter's disability condition. If the condition is not entered on the registration card, the voter may receive assistance by completing a declaration at the polls.

If, due to a disability, a vote cannot sign their name on a voter's certificate after voting at the polls, the voter will not be required to make a signature, but instead an election officer will fill out a voter's certificate for the voter and describe on it the voter's disability.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-18)

25 P.S. § 3050(b) [link]

25 Pa.C.S.. § 1327(a)(3) [link]

25 Pa.C.S.. § 1504 [link]

25 P.S. § 3058 [link]

Does the state have other rules related to access for persons with disabilities?

A person may receive assistance completing a voter registration application. If a person receives such assistance, the assistant must write on the application the assistant's name and address.

Additionally, a voter who cannot go to the polling place on election day due to illness or disability may apply for and vote an absentee ballot. (See section below on absentee ballots). The application may be made either using an official application from the Secretary of the Commonwealth or by writing a letter that contains the same information as the official application. If the voter is unable to sign the absentee ballot application due to disability, the voter may declare this on the application and make their mark in the presence of one adult witness. If the voter becomes disabled or ill after the absentee ballot application deadline, the voter may receive an extension (see question about emergency absentee ballots in section below about absentee ballots).

A voter with a disability who cannot complete an absentee ballot without assistance may receive such assistance so long as either (1) the voter has already gone through the process of recording on their registration card the exact nature of the disability (see question above), or (2) the voter submits with the application for an official absentee ballot a statement describing exact nature of the disability and saying that the voter believes the disability will continue to be present when voting. After meeting this requirement and receiving the absentee ballot, the voter may choose someone to assist them complete the absentee ballot, so long as the assistant is not the voter's employer or agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter's union.

If a voter who is disabled or at least 65 years old is assigned a polling place that the County Board of Elections deems inaccessible, that voter may vote using an "alternative ballot", which is sent to the voter like an absentee ballot and can be cast the same way as absentee ballot (see section below on absentee ballots). However, an alternative ballot may be applied for up to 5:00pm on the Tuesday before Election Day, or if the voter experiences an emergency, up to 8:00pm on Election Day. Completed alternative ballots must be received by 8:00pm on Election Day. Voters should contact their County Board of Elections to determine whether they are eligible to cast alternative ballots.

A voter who is an active or veteran member of the uniform services and is bedridden or in the hospital due to illness or physical disability is not required to register to vote before or at the same time as submitting a military-overseas absentee ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-18)

25 P.S. § 3146.2a (emergency absentee ballot) [link]

25 P.S. § 3146.6(a)(3) (not signing absentee ballot application) [link]

25 Pa.C.S.. § 3302 (absentee ballot request) [link]

25 P.S. § 3146.6a (absentee assistance) [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 3505(a) (military-overseas voter disability) [link]

25 Pa.C.S.. § 1327(a)(3)(voter registration) [link]

Alternative Ballots [link]

Early Voting, Absentee Voting, and Other Ways to Vote

Early Voting/Absentee In-Person Voting

Does the state have early voting/absentee in-person voting?

No; the only option to cast a ballot before Election Day is absentee voting by mail.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-18)

25 Pa.C.S.. § 3302 [link]

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174088&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=7&mode=2 [link]

25 P.S. § 3146.1 [link]

Absentee Voting by Mail

Can anyone vote absentee by mail without an excuse? If not, what excuses allow a voter to vote absentee by mail?

No. The following voters may apply for an absentee ballot:

  • A voter, and the spouse and dependents who accompanying the voter, who will be outside of the municipality during the entire time the polls are open on Election Day because their duties, occupation, or business require it (including leaves of absence for teaching, vacations, and sabbaticals).
  • A voter, and the voter's spouse and dependents who will accompany the voter, who will be outside of the municipality during the entire time the polls are open on Election Day because of their service in the Pennsylvania government or federal government.
  • A county employee who cannot vote on Election Day because of their election-related duties
  • A voter who cannot go to the polling place due to a religious holiday
  • A voter who cannot go to the polls due to illness or disability
  • A qualified voter who is in military service of the United States, even if the voter is not registered to vote, and even if the voter is inside the municipality on Election Day
  • The spouse and dependents of a voter who is in military service of the United States, if they are registered to vote and will be accompanying the voter serving in the military outside of the municipality during the entire time the polls are open on Election Day
  • A voter, and the spouse and dependents living with or accompanying the voter, who will be outside of the municipality during the entire time the polls are open on Election Day, and either is a member of the Merchant Marine or is a member a religious or welfare group attached to and serving with the armed forces
  • A qualified voter who is a veteran of the armed services and is bedridden or in the hospital due to illness or physical disability, if the voter is absent from the municipality and cannot vote due to the illness or disability, even if the voter is not registered to vote.
  • A voter who will be outside the voting district for any reason and wishes to vote only for President and Vice President (see "Presidential-only ballots" question below).

Note that many of these voters may also qualify as "uniformed-service voters" or "overseas voters", and they may alternatively vote a military/overseas ballot under separate procedures (see section below on Military/Overseas Voting for more information).

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-18)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174088 [link]

25 P.S. § 2602(w) [link]

25 P.S. § 2602(w) [link]

25 P.S. § 3146.1 [link]

25 Pa.C.S.. § 3302 [link]

Deadline to apply for absentee ballot by mail

Generally, absentee ballot applications must be received by 5:00pm the Tuesday before Election Day. Different rules apply to voters in emergency situations (see question below) and military/overseas voters (see section below on Military/Overseas Voting).

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-18)

25 P.S. § 3146.2a [link]

How does a voter apply for an absentee mail ballot?

Voters must complete an official Absentee Ballot Application, or write a signed letter containing the same information, and submit it to their county election office.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-18)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174088&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=7&mode=2 [link]

25 P.S. § 3146.2 [link]

25 Pa.C.S.. § 3302 [link]

Absentee Ballot Application [link]

Can a voter make an online request for an absentee mail ballot?

No, except for military/overseas voters (see section below on Military/Overseas Voting).

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-18)

Interview with the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office [link]

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174088&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=7&mode=2 [link]

Absentee Ballot Application [link]

Does a voter need to submit any supporting documentation or verification with an absentee mail ballot or absentee mail ballot application? If so, what is required?

When applying for an absentee ballot, a voter must provide "proof of identification", which means either:

  • The driver's license number from a current and valid driver's license; or
  • If the voter has no driver's license, then the last four digits of the voter's Social Security Number; or
  • If the voter has neither a driver's license nor a Social Security Number, then a copy of a photo ID that has the voter's name on it (which must substantially confirm to the voter's name as written in the district register), the voter's photograph on it, and was issued either by the federal government, Pennsylvania government, an accredited public or private college, a Pennsylvania municipality to one of its employees, or a Pennsylvania care facility. The photo ID must have an expiration date and not have expired yet, unless the ID was issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and is not more than 12 months expired, or the ID was issued by one of the US armed forces or their reserve components, including the Pennsylvania National Guard, which shows that the voter is a current or veteran member of that service and includes a designation that the ID's expiration date is indefinite; or
  • If the voter has neither a driver's license number nor a Social Security Number and has a religious objection to being photographed, then a copy of a valid-without-photo driver's license or a valid-without-photo identification card issued by the Department of Transportation.

If a voter does not provide this information with the absentee ballot application, or the county board of elections is unable to verify the voter's identity using the information, the voter will be required to provide this information when submitting the absentee ballot in order for it to be counted.

These requirements do not apply to voters casting an overseas-military ballot or an alternative ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-21)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174088&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=7&mode=2 [link]

25 P.S. § 2602(z.5)(3) [link]

25 P.S. § 3146.2 [link]

25 P.S. § 3146.2b(d),(f) [link]

Deadline to return absentee ballots

Generally, absentee ballots must be received by the county board of elections by 5:00pm on the Friday before Election Day. In presidential years, absentee ballots received by the time the polls close on Election Day will be counted for the offices of president and vice president only.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174088&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=7&mode=2 [link]

25 P.S. § 3146.8 [link]

Are there restrictions on who may return a voter's absentee mail ballot for them?

Only a voter who qualifies to vote an absentee ballot due to a disability, or who qualifies to vote an alternative ballot, may designate someone to deliver their ballot to them and return it to the county board of elections. The voter may not designate someone who has already been designated to assist another vote living at a different address.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-22)

Designation of Agent to Assist Disabled Voter in Voting by Absentee or Alternative Ballot [link]

Certification of Designated Agent [link]

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174088&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=7&mode=2 [link]

Are there any special emergency rules that allow a voter to vote absentee by mail if they are unable to make it to the polls at the last minute?

Yes. A voter may submit an Emergency Application for an absentee ballot, which must be notarized, any time before 5:00pm on the Friday before an election if any of the following apply: (1) the voter is so physically disabled or ill on or before the Tuesday before the election that the voter is unable to submit an absentee ballot application; or (2) the voter becomes so physically disabled or ill after the Tuesday before the election that the voter cannot go to the polls; or (3) the voter learns after the Tuesday before the election that the voter's business, duties, or occupation will require the voter to be absent from the municipality on Election Day.

Different rules apply if, between 5:00pm the Friday before the election and 8:00pm on Election Day, a voter either (4) becomes so physically disabled or ill that the voter cannot go to the polls, or (5) the voter learns that the voter's business, duties, or occupation will require the voter to be absent from the municipality on Election Day. In either of these scenarios, the voter must submit to the county's Court of Common Pleas an Emergency Application for an absentee ballot or a signed letter that has the same information as an Emergency Application. If the judge determines the person submitting the application is a qualified voter, then the judge will issue an absentee ballot to the voter. If the voter cannot go to the courthouse to pick up the ballot, the voter can designate in writing a representative to pick up the ballot from the courthouse, deliver it to the voter, and then return it to the county board of elections after the voter completes it. If the voter cannot pick up the ballot from the courthouse and does not designate a representative, then the judge may designate a deputy sheriff or constable to deliver the ballot to the voter (if the voter is located in the county) and return it to the county board of elections after the voter completes it. If the voter needs assistance completing the ballot, the voter must designate in writing who the assistant is, and the assistant must declare in writing that they provided assistance. To be designated as an assistant, the assistant must meet the eligibility requirements to provide assistance (see the "Disability Access" section above for more information).

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-22)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174088&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=7&mode=2 [link]

25 P.S. § 3146.2a [link]

Court of Common Pleas Finder [link]

Emergency Application for an Absentee Ballot [link]

Are lists of people who vote absentee by mail published? How?

All absentee ballots, applications for absentee ballots, absentee ballot envelopes, and related files are public records and must be stored for at least 2 years. A voter's "proof of identification" (see above question on supporting documentation submitted with absentee ballot applications) is exempt from this requirement.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-22)

25 P.S. § 3146.9 [link]

Presidential-only ballots

Under federal law, any registered voter who moves out of the state after the 30th day before a Presidential election may vote for President and Vice President either in person at the voter's previous state of residence or using an absentee ballot from the voter's previous state of residence.

Under state law, a person may also vote an absentee ballot for President and Vice President by submitting the following written affidavit: "I hereby swear (or affirm) that I am unable to vote in person on the day of the next ensuing election by reason of absence from my voting district." The normal deadlines for submitting absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots, including emergency deadlines if applicable, apply to these voters.

Source (confirmed on: 1904-01-01)

52 U.S.C. § 10502(e) [link]

4 Pa. Code § 171.11 [link]

Absentee Voting for Military and Overseas Voters

Who is eligible for military/overseas absentee voting?

"Uniformed-service voters" and "overseas voters" are eligible to vote a military/overseas absentee ballot. Note that many of these voters are also eligible to vote a regular absentee ballot (see previous section on Absentee Voting by Mail).

A "uniformed-service voter" is

  • A member, or the spouse or dependent of a member, of the active or reserve components of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard of the United States who is on active duty;
  • A member, or the spouse or dependent of a member, of the United States merchant marine, the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service of the Department of Health, and Human Services or the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States;
  • A member on activated status of the National Guard or Pennsylvania National Guard; or
  • A veteran of a uniformed service who is bedridden or hospitalized due to illness or physical disability

An "overseas voter" includes any voter who is outside of the United States (including outside of federal territories).

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174126&mode=2 [link]

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1192209&mode=2 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 3502 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 3506 [link]

How do voters apply for a military/overseas ballot?

Military/overseas voters may apply for a military/overseas ballot by using the regular absentee ballot application, which can be obtained by e-mailing a request to stsvcuocavaabs@pa.gov, or by using a federal postcard application. An adult who is in the voter's immediate family may submit an application on the voter's behalf.

Note that an application for a military/overseas ballot made for a primary election will also be considered an application for a military/overseas ballot for all general elections, special elections, and municipal elections occurring later that year.

If a military/overseas voter is not registered to vote, the voter may either submit a regular voter registration application before applying for the military/overseas ballot, or the voter may use the federal postcard application to both register to vote and apply a military/overseas ballot at the same time. For uniformed-service voters only, the voter may use the federal write-in absentee ballot to both register to vote and vote at the same time.

However, a voter is not required to register to vote before or at the same time as voting a military/overseas ballot if the voter is bedridden or in the hospital due to illness or physical disability, and the voter is either a veteran, or is a current uniformed-service member who has a Pennsylvania residence and is on active duty in the army, navy, air force, marine corps, coast guard, national guard, or Pennsylvania National Guard.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174126&mode=2 [link]

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1192209&mode=2 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 3502 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 3505 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 3506 [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 3507(b) [link]

Deadline to apply for a military/overseas ballot

A voter may apply for a military/overseas ballot any time before the election. Note that an application for a military/overseas ballot made for a primary election will also be considered an application for a military/overseas ballot for all general elections, special elections, and municipal elections occurring later that year.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

25 Pa.C.S. § 3507 [link]

Deadline to return the military/overseas ballot

Either (1) the county board of elections must receive the ballot by the time the polls close on Election Day, or (2) the voter must submit the ballot the day before Election Day by 11:59pm in the place where the voter completes the ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

25 Pa.C.S. § 3509 [link]

Who is eligible to use a write-in absentee ballot? How does it work?

Any military/overseas voter may use the federal write-in absentee ballot to vote in an election. For uniformed-service voters only, the voter may use the federal write-in absentee ballot to both register to vote and vote at the same time.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

25 Pa.C.S. § 3505(b)(2) [link]

25 Pa.C.S. § 3510 [link]

On Election Day

Where do you vote in person?

Where do you vote in person?

Voters may cast ballots at the polling place for the election district in which they reside.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

25 P.S. § 2726 [link]

What hours are the polls open on Election Day?

What hours are the polls open on Election Day?

7:00am - 8:00pm. Voters waiting in line to vote when the polls close must be allowed to vote.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

25 P.S. § 3045 [link]

25 P.S. § 3060(e) [link]

In the Voting Booth

Can a voter bring children into the voting booth with them?

Yes; voters may bring their minor children to the polling places and may bring one of their children into the voting booth.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

25 P.S. § 3531.1 [link]

Are employers required to give employees time off to vote?

Are employers required to give employees time off to vote?

No. However, employers may not bribe, threaten, or fire employees for voting, for not voting, or based on how they vote.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

http://www.vote411.org/state_guide?state_id=Pennsylvania#.U87OeIBdWoI [link]

25 P.S. § 3539 [link]

Campaigning, Electioneering, and Recording Devices

Are there restrictions on campaigning/electioneering on Election Day?

Electioneering or soliciting votes is prohibited inside the polling place. Furthermore, people other than election workers, poll watchers, overseers, voters in the course of voting, people lawfully assisting voters, and peace and police officers must remain at least 10 feet away from the polling place.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

25 P.S. § 3060 [link]

Can a voter wear a button or t-shirt with a candidate's name or logo on it into the polling place when they vote?

State law does not explicitly ban voters from wearing buttons or t-shirts in polling places, but local election officials or poll workers may perceive this as "electioneering", which is prohibited in polling places. Voters should contact their county board of elections to learn whether they may wear buttons or t-shirts in their polling place.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

http://www.aclupa.org/files/7714/1442/1550/PassiveElectioneering.pdf [link]

25 P.S. § 3060 [link]

*NEW 1** Can a voter use a digital or recording device (such as a cell phone or camera) inside the polling place or voting booth?

State law does not address the issue of digital devices in polling places. Local practices may vary. The Department of State recommends that "counties adopt common-sense rules that take into account the need for order in the polling place and the right of citizens to vote unimpeded."

The State also guides counties that "[r]ecent court cases have found a First Amendment right to take 'ballot selfies,' i.e. a picture of oneself voting."

Source (confirmed on: 10/26/2016)

25 P.S. § 3530 [link]

Pa. Const. art. VII § 4 [link]

Guidance on Rules in Effect at the Polling Place on Election Day [link]

*NEW 2** Can a voter use a digital or recording device (such as a cell phone or camera) outside the polling place but within the zone around the polling place where campaigning/electioneering is banned?

State law does not separately address this issue (see the previous question).

Source (confirmed on: 10/17/2016)

25 P.S. § 3549 [link]

Who's at the Polls?

Can persons other than election workers observe inside the polls?

Yes. Election observers fall into two categories: "overseers", who serve on behalf of the county's court of common pleas, and "watchers", who serve on behalf of candidates and political parties.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

25 P.S. § 2687 [link]

25 P.S.§ 2685 [link]

What are observers inside the polls called in the state?

"Overseers" and "watchers".

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

25 P.S. § 2687 [link]

25 P.S.§ 2685 [link]

Does the state establish requirements to observe inside the polls?

Yes. For overseers, 5 or more registered voters in an election district must petition the county's court of common pleas to appoint overseers. The court must then appoint 2 registered voters from different political parties to serve as overseers for that election district's polling place. To be eligible for appointment, the persons must be registered voters who live within the election district and cannot, within two months before being appointed, have worked for the federal, state, or local government, except as a notary public, district justice, or member of the state militia. Additionally, 17-year-old high school students who are not eligible to vote may serve if they have the consent of their parents and school principal, and if they have an exemplary academic record as determined by the high school.

For watchers, each candidate may appoint two watchers at each election district the candidate will be voted on. Additionally, each political party or political body who has nominated a candidate for election in a general, special, or municipal election may appoint three watchers at each election district in which their nominees will be voted on. Watchers must be registered voters in the county, but they do not need to live in the election district where they serve. Watchers may also serve in other election districts besides the one they were initially appointed to. Watchers will be given certificates by the county board of elections after they are appointed, and they must produce this certificate upon request. Only one watcher per candidate and per party/political body may be in a polling place at once when the polls are open.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

25 P.S. § 2672 (overseer eligibility) [link]

25 P.S. § 2687 (watchers) [link]

25 P.S.§ 2685 (overseer appointment process) [link]

*NEW 3* Can a poll observer use a digital or recording device (such as a cell phone or camera) in the polling place?

State law does not address this issue. Local practices may vary.

Source (confirmed on: 10/15/2016)

25 P.S. § 417 [link]

Are there other rules on what poll observers can or cannot do?

Overseers may be present within the enclosed space during the entire time the polls are open, the votes counted, and the returns made out and signed by the election officers. Overseers may keep a list of voters, and they may challenge any voter and interrogate the voter and the voter's witnesses under oath to determine whether the voter is qualified, and to examine the voter's papers produced. Whenever the members of an election board differ in opinion, the overseers, if they agree on the outcome, may make the decision.

Watchers may be allowed in the polling place during the election and may challenge any voter and require proof of the voter's eligibility to vote. When voters are not present in the polling place either voting or waiting to vote, the judge of elections must allow watchers to inspect the voting check list and either of the two numbered lists of voters maintained by the county board. Only one watcher per candidate and per party/political body may be in a polling place at once when the polls are open.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-23)

25 P.S. § 2672 (overseer eligibility) [link]

25 P.S. § 2687 (watchers) [link]

25 P.S.§ 2685 (overseer appointment process) [link]

Provisional Voting and Voters at the Wrong Polling Place

When should a voter be offered a provisional ballot?

Under Section 203 of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, if a person claims to be a registered voter in the jurisdiction in which the person desires to vote and the person claims to be eligible to vote in a federal election, but the person’s name does not appear on the official list of eligible voters for the polling place or an election official asserts that the person is not eligible to vote, then that person must be allowed to cast a provisional ballot at that polling place. The person may cast the provisional ballot after completing, in front of an election official at the polling place, a written affirmation stating that the person is (1) a registered voter in the jurisdiction, and (2) eligible to vote in that election.

Additionally, any person who votes in a federal election as a result of a federal or state court order, or any other order extending the time established for closing the polls by a state law in effect 10 days before the date of that election, may only vote in that election by casting a provisional ballot. Any such ballot cast must be separated and held apart from other provisional ballots cast for different reasons.

Under state law, a voter may be given a provisional ballot because:

  • The voter's name does not appear in the district register and election officials cannot determine the voter's registration status;
  • The voter is voting in an election district for the first time and does not have an approved form of identification (see section below on Voter ID for information on what forms of ID are accepted);
  • An election official asserts that the voter is not eligible to vote;
  • The voter is voting as a result of a federal or state judicial order; or
  • The voter is voting as a result of an order extending the time established for closing the polls by state law that is in effect 10 days before an election.
Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

52 U.S.C. § 21082 (federal law) [link]

25 P.S. § 3050(a.4) [link]

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174104&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=1&mode=2 [link]

If a voter casts a provisional ballot at the wrong precinct, will the ballot be counted?

Yes, but only if the voter lives in the county where the vote is cast, and only if the voter did not intentionally vote in the wrong precinct. The ballot will count only for those races that the voter would have been eligible to vote for in the voter's correct precinct.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

25 P.S. § 3050(a.4)(7) [link]

Following up on a provisional ballot

Typically, if the voter is a first-time voter who fails to provide acceptable proof of identification, the voter must appear before the county board of elections within 6 days after the election and provide such ID, but this rule may vary county-by-county. Voters should contact their county board of elections to learn their county's rule.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

Interview with Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office [link]

Finding out if a provisional ballot was counted

Beginning the 8th day after the election, voters may call 1-877-VOTESPA or visit www.pavoterservices.state.pa.us to learn whether their provisional ballots counted. When using these services, voters must provide their provisional ballot identification number, which can be found on the provisional ballot identification receipt.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174104&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=1&mode=2 [link]

Ballot Shortages/Voting Machine Malfunctions

What is the law or procedure on emergency ballots if a polling place runs out of printed ballots? Are handwritten/photocopied ballots allowed?

If a polling place's voting machine breaks down and cannot be repaired or replaced with another machine, printed or handwritten paper ballots can be used.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

25 P.S. § 3031.20 [link]

What is the law or procedure on emergency ballots if a voting machine breaks or malfunctions?

If a polling place's voting machine breaks down and cannot be repaired or replaced with another machine, printed or handwritten paper ballots can be used. In 2009, a federal court ordered Pennsylvania to make emergency paper ballots available when at least 50% or more of the voting machines in a polling place were out of order.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

NAACP v. Cortes [link]

http://pilcop.org/cortes/ [link]

25 P.S. § 3031.20 [link]

Voter ID and Challenges

Voter ID

Who must show ID to vote?

Only voters who are voting in a particular election district for the first time.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174125&mode=2 [link]

Are there any special requirements for first-time voters?

Yes. A voter who is voting in an election district for the first time must present an acceptable form of ID at the polls. (See question below about which specific forms of ID are acceptable.) If the voter does not present an acceptable ID, the voter may cast a provisional ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174125&mode=2 [link]

What ID is acceptable?

A voter who is voting in an election district for the first time must present an acceptable form of photo ID or non-photo ID at the polls. If the voter wishes to use a photo ID, the following forms of photo ID are acceptable:

  • A valid Pennsylvania driver's license or PennDOT ID card issued by the Department of Transportation
  • A valid photo ID issued by the Pennsylvania government or federal government
  • A valid student photo ID
  • A valid employee photo ID
  • A valid U.S. passport
  • A valid U.S. armed forces photo ID

If a voter wishes to use a non-photo-ID, the following forms of ID are acceptable so long as they contain the voter's name and address:

  • A non-photo ID issued by the Pennsylvania government or federal government
  • A firearm permit
  • A current utility bill
  • A current bank statement
  • A paycheck
  • A government check
Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174125&mode=2 [link]

Is a student ID an acceptable form of identification?

Yes, as long as it is valid and contains a photo of the voter.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174125&mode=2 [link]

If a voter has no ID, are there alternatives such as an oath or witness?

The voter will be able to cast a provisional ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174125&mode=2 [link]

Challenges to Voters at the Polling Place

Who can challenge a voter at the polling place?

A voter can be challenged by any other qualified voter, election officer, overseer, or watcher.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

25 P.S. § 3050(d) [link]

What are the allowed reasons on which a voter can be challenged at the polling place?

A voter may be challenged on the basis of their identity or their residence. If election officers believe that a voter's signature on a voter certificate (which voters must sign before voting) does not appear to match the voter's signature in the district register, then the voter is automatically considered challenged on the basis of their identity. A voter may not be challenged as to the voter's party registration on election day.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

25 P.S. § 3050 [link]

How does a voter defend their eligibility to vote if they are challenged?

If challenged, a voter must have another registered voter from their county vouch for their identity and residence.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

25 P.S. § 3050(d) [link]

What are the restrictions on polling place challenges?

Persons who challenge voters at the polls may not willfully commit, or conspire to willfully commit, fraud.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-24)

25 P.S. § 3050(e) [link]

State and Local Election Officials

The State Election Authority

Who/what is the state election authority?

Secretary of the Commonwealth

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

25 P.S. § 2621 [link]

Current official

Pedro Cortés

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

http://www.dos.pa.gov/about-us/Pages/Secretary-of-the-Commonwealth.aspx#.Vgl7UaKM4-8 [link]

E-mail

For voter registration questions, e-mail ST-VOTERREG@pa.gov and for other voting questions, e-mail ST-HAVA@state.pa.us

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt/community/otros_hiperenlaces/14312/hide_-_contact_us_-_vpa [link]

Phone

1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772)

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt/community/otros_hiperenlaces/14312/hide_-_contact_us_-_vpa [link]

Address

Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, 201 North Office Building, 401 North Street Harrisburg, PA 17120

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

http://www.dos.pa.gov/Pages/Directory.aspx#.Vgl9r6KM4-- [link]

Local Election Authorities

What local election official(s) are in charge of major state-level elections (such as the even-year November general elections)?

County Boards of Elections

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

25 P.S. § 2642 [link]

What is the county-level election official?

County Boards of Elections, except for voter registration, which is overseen by a County Registration Commission.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

25 Pa.C.S.. § 1203 [link]

25 P.S. § 2642 [link]

What is the municipal-level election official?

None. Counties are in charge of all election duties, even for municipal-level elections.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

25 P.S. § 2642 [link]

Contact information for local election authorities

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174076&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=24&mode=2

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1174076&parentname=ObjMgr&parentid=24&mode=2 [link]

The Voter File

Voter File Basics

National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) Disclosure Law

Section 8 of the federal NVRA requires that each State maintain for at least 2 years and make available for public inspection and, where available, photocopying at a reasonable cost, all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters, except to the extent that such records contain information about a person declining to register to vote or information about the identity of a voter registration agency through which a particular voter might have chosen to register.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-10-05)

52 U.S.C. § 20507 [link]

Acquiring a Voter File

Under state procedure, who may acquire a voter file?

A voter file is open to public inspection and a copy of the file may be obtained by a registered Pennsylvania voter.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

4 Pa. Code § 183.14 [link]

25 Pa.C.S.. § 1404 [link]

Who is the state-level contact for acquiring a voter file?

Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation

E-mail: Ra-st-sure@pa.gov

Phone: (717) 787-5280

Address: 201 North Office Building, 401 North Street Harrisburg, PA 17120

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

http://www.dos.pa.gov/Pages/Directory.aspx#.Vgl9r6KM4-- [link]

4 Pa. Code § 183.14 [link]

How much does the state charge for the file?

A "reasonable fee" determined by the office providing the copies.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

4 Pa. Code § 183.14(i) [link]

25 Pa.C.S.. § 1404(c)(1) [link]

What format is the file available in?

Paper or electronic format.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

4 Pa. Code § 183.14(j) [link]

25 Pa.C.S.. § 1404(c)(1) [link]

Use of the Voter File

Does the state have restrictions on commercial use of the voter file?

Yes, the voter file may not be used for commercial purposes. The voter file may be used only for purposes related to elections, political activities, and law enforcement. Additionally, the voter file may not be published on the internet.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

4 Pa. Code § 183.14(k) [link]

25 Pa.C.S.. § 1404(c)(2) [link]

Does the state have restrictions on non-commercial use of the voter file?

Yes. The voter file may be used only for purposes related to elections, political activities, and law enforcement. Additionally, the voter file may not be published on the internet.

Source (confirmed on: 2015-09-25)

4 Pa. Code § 183.14(k) [link]

25 Pa.C.S.. § 1404(c)(2) [link]