The Voter Checklist Every Pennsylvanian Needs to Make Sure Their Vote Counts

Residents wait in line outside a satellite election office at Temple University's Liacouras Center, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

By Talia Adell Stinson

October 13, 2020

The Keystone has put together a checklist to help explain the voting process and get you prepared for the general election.


Pennsylvania voters should be sure that they are aware of their rights and clear on the voting process before they vote this November — whether it’s by mail or in person.

Gov. Tom Wolf and the majority-GOP Legislature are still negotiating and finalizing reforms ahead of the general election to reduce delays that could occur as a result of massive numbers of ballots being mailed in for the election.

Some county election officials are pushing to be able to count mail-in ballots before Election Day.

Even though any registered voter in Pennsylvania can vote by mail since the governor approved the bipartisan Act 77, some voters might prefer to participate in this historic election by going in person to local polling places to cast their votes. Keep in mind that your vote will only count once, whether you choose to do so by mail or in person. That said, you should not vote by mail and then visit your local polling location on Nov. 3 to vote again. 

The Keystone has put together a checklist to help explain the process and get you prepared to vote this November: 

Have You Confirmed That You are Registered to Vote?

The first step is to make sure you are a registered voter. Be sure to check online to confirm you are registered to vote. In Pennsylvania, residents have until Oct. 19 to confirm their registration, which is 15 days prior to election day.

If you are not registered to vote, you can apply online before Oct. 19.

You must be a US citizen at least 18 years of age who has lived in a Pennsylvania county for at least 30 days.


Have You Confirmed the Location of Your Polling Place?

If you would prefer to vote at your local polling place this November, be sure you check to confirm that your location hasn’t changed ahead of Nov. 3.

During the June 2 primary, some voting locations changed or were consolidated in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic; verifying your exact location ahead of time will save you time and trouble on Election Day.

Each county has specific instructions and provisions for voting in person. You can get ready to vote and review the voter toolkit for any PA county online ahead of the election.

What Should You Take With You to Your Polling Place?

Identification. If you are voting in person for the first time at your polling place, you will need some type of photo identification. Approved forms of identification include a PA driver’s license or PA identification card, a passport, among others. If you have questions about whether other types of identification are acceptable, visit your local county election’s office to inquire.

If you arrive at your new polling place without a proper form of identification, you will be required to complete a provisional ballot to cast your vote.

Returning voters will not need to show ID to vote at the polls in this November’s general election.

A mask. Do your part to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A book to read, a game to play, or a sweater to knit. You might have to wait in line for a bit (or hours), so you might want to have something to do while you wait.

What Should You Expect When You Arrive at Your Polling Place?

Once you arrive at your polling place, you will be greeted by poll workers as you wait in line to get inside your poll location. Social distancing measures will apply, so be prepared for a possible wait. You will be allowed to vote as long as you are in line before 8 p.m.

When you reach the front of the line, you will formally check in with your name to ensure you are at the correct location. You will then be directed to a voting booth.

In November, all registered voters will vote for the second time at new voting machines. Each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties now have secure voting systems installed. A poll worker will upload a paper voting sheet in the machine so that you may cast your vote.


What Should You Expect if You Decide to Vote by Mail?

Voters in the June 2 primary received packets to vote by mail, and it’s likely that the same will happen for the Nov. 3 general election. Packets included several items: 

  • Instructions for completing the ballot, 
  • The ballot,
  • A pamphlet that explains ballot questions, 
  • The secrecy envelope in which you enclose your completed ballot, and 
  • The external mailing envelope in which you enclose your secrecy envelope.

Read the instructions and the ballot questions overview carefully before you fill in your ballot.

How Do You Fill Out Your Ballot Properly and Make Sure it Isn’t ‘Naked’?

We have a guide here.


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