‘Naked ballots,’ signatures and deadlines: What you need to know about voting this year in Pennsylvania

Be patient: Results of the Nov. 3 election in Pennsylvania, and across the country, likely won’t be known for days. Here’s how WITF’s newsroom will cover election night and beyond.

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Voter registration deadline: 11:59 p.m. Oct. 19

Last day to request a mail-in ballot: 5 p.m. Oct. 27

Last day to return a mail-in ballot: Your ballot must be postmarked by Nov. 3. It must be received no later than Nov. 6. (Source: Supreme Court of Pennsylvania). *Note: As of Oct. 29, state officials say you should not put your ballot in the mail; instead, you should drop it off in person.

Last day for military and overseas absentee ballots to be received: Nov. 10. They must have been submitted no later than 11:59 p.m. Nov. 2.

Number of mail-in ballots requested as of Nov. 2: 3,097,640

Number of mail-in ballots returned as of Nov. 2: 2,414,351

Apply for a mail-in ballot
Find your polling place
Find a ballot drop box
How to vote early

Key questions

Does my signature on my mail-in ballot have to match the signature on my voter registration?

No. State law says elections officials cannot reject ballots only because the signatures don’t or may not match. The state Supreme Court affirmed that law in a unanimous ruling on a campaign lawsuit.

Do I have to use both envelopes provided to return my mail-in ballot?

Emily Previti / WITF

If you are voting by mail, you must put your completed ballots into a secrecy envelope — an example of which is pictured here; the wording on yours may be slightly different — and then put that into the envelope bearing the name and address of your county elections office. If you do not put your ballot into the secrecy envelope, your ballot will be rejected, according to a state Supreme Court decision.

Yes. If you do not put your ballot into the security envelope before putting it in the envelope to mail it back, your ballot will be invalid. The security envelope is plain except for text indicating that it contains an official ballot. The outer envelope includes the address of your county elections office, prepaid postage and a voter’s declaration on the back for you to fill out and sign. (Source: Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision)

Do I have to sign the outer return mail-in ballot envelope?

Yes. If you do not sign it, your ballot will be rejected.

Does my county have ballot drop boxes?

Ask your county’s elections office.

What do I do if I feel intimidated at the polls?

If you feel intimidated, you should call 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772) or fill out the state’s election complaint form.

What do poll watchers do and under whose authority? 

Candidates and political parties appoint poll watchers to monitor in-person voting activity on Election Day at polling places in the county where the watchers are registered to vote. Counties issue poll-watching certificates that watchers must carry with them. Though rules and nuances vary by state and county, experts agree that watchers should never come in direct contact with voters, but instead alert election judges of any concerns. More details are here.

Can I travel to a county I don’t live in to be a poll-watcher?

No. Poll watchers can only be at polls in their home county. (Source: Pennsylvania Election Code)

When can counties start counting mail-in ballots?

7 a.m. on Election Day. The state legislature is considering a bill that would allow counties to begin processing ballots earlier, but those activities would be limited to opening envelopes and extracting ballots. Scanning ballots and tabulating votes wouldn’t begin until Election Day.


Electoral college deadlines

Dec. 8: “Safe Harbor” Day — The deadline for states to resolve any election result disputes and determine its electors.

Dec. 14: Electors meet and vote.

Dec. 23: Results delivered to president of the U.S. Senate.

Jan. 6: Results certified by Congress.

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