Getting Ready: Your Guide to the 2020 General Election in Pennsylvania

By Talia Adell Stinson

September 14, 2020

The Keystone tells you how to register to vote, apply for a mail-in ballot, and watch key races.

With just weeks to go until the general election in November, Pennsylvanians have limited time to confirm voter registration, sign up to receive a mail-in ballot, learn how to get to the polls on Election Day, and understand the important races. The key to navigating the upcoming election is to be mindful of each deadline and stay organized. This general election will likely be the most important and closely watched in recent history. 

More voters typically come out for elections featuring presidential and vice presidential candidates. Election officials are already preparing for increased voter participation and a high volume of mailed ballots for the Nov. 3 election. Increased turnout in November coupled with more voters participating by mail could mean delays in election results nationwide.

Here are some tips to help guide your preparation for the general election, whether you vote by mail or in person at the polls:

How to Register to Vote

Not sure if you’re registered to vote? You can check online.

In Pennsylvania, residents have until Oct. 19 to confirm their registration, which is 15 days prior to election day.

To be eligible to vote in Pennsylvania, you must be at least 18 years old and a US Citizen for at least one month — or 30 days — prior to the election. You also need to live in a Pennsylvania county for at least 30 days before election day.

If you are not already registered and you meet the qualifications, you can apply online.

You can also request a voter registration form by mail, complete it, and return the form to your local county election office by Oct. 19. 

If you are not a US Citizen at least 30 days ahead of election day, you cannot register to vote for the Nov. 3 election. 

Voting by Mail

Anyone registered to vote in Pennsylvania can request a mail-in ballot. 

If you choose to vote by mail, you should request your ballot as soon as possible. You can apply for a mail-in ballot online or at your county election office. The deadline to apply for a ballot for the general election is 5 p.m. on Oct. 27. 

You can check the status of your mail-in ballot application here on the PA Department of State website. 

When you get your ballot, take time to read the instructions on how to complete your ballot before you cast your vote.

The deadline to submit your mail-in ballot is 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. It’s wise to anticipate postal service delays and mail your ballot as early as possible.

Voting in person

You can vote in-person at your local polling place this November.

Check online to verify your polling place ahead of time. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. 

If you go to vote in person, be sure to wear a mask and adhere to social distancing guidelines while waiting. As long as you are in line by 8 p.m., you can vote in person.

Who’s Running? Top Races in November

This November’s election is certainly one to watch, and you should be prepared prior to heading to the polls. Here are some of the key races to be mindful of ahead of time in Pennsylvania: 

President/Vice President: President Donald Trump and Mike Pence (R- incumbent) vs. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (D)

President Trump and Vice President Pence have been confirmed as the Republican candidates for President and Vice President this November, and they are seeking a second term. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for President and Vice President and are running against the incumbents.

PA Attorney General: AG Josh Shapiro (D- incumbent) vs. Heather Heidelberg (R)

PA AG Josh Shapiro is seeking another term as the top law official of the Commonwealth, having won the primary election in June. He faces a challenge from Republican Heather Heidelberg in the upcoming general election.

PA Auditor General: Nina Ahmad (D) vs. Timothy DeFoor (R)

For the first time in state history, Pennsylvania will elect a person of color as the Auditor General. The Democratic candidate is Nina Ahmad, who is Bangladeshi, and the Republican candidate is Timothy DeFoor, who is African American.

The incumbent, Eugene DePasquale (D), was unable to run for another term because he had reached his term limits. 

PA State Treasurer: Joseph Torsella (D- incumbent) vs. Stacy Garrity (R)

This November, Pennsylvania will also elect Joseph Torsella to another term in office as State Treasurer, or select his Republican challenger to take office.

Congressional and Senate seats

Congressional and Senate seats are also on the ballot in PA this November. Check the PA Department of State’s site to view candidates running, as well as to learn which are relative to your respective county and district early.

Some counties will likely also have local ballot questions that need voter approval in November. It’s a good idea to do your research on these questions prior to heading to the polls or completing your ballot by mail.

If you have questions about any of the above races, any others that may be happening in your county, or seek clarity on the ballot questions, be sure to contact your local county election office.

Important Deadlines 

Remember, you have until Oct. 19 to confirm that you are registered to vote.

You then have until 5 p.m. on Oct. 27 to request your mail-in ballot from the PA Department of State, and it must arrive in your local elections office by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. 


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