October 19, 2020
Last day to register to vote before the November 3 election
October 27, 2020
Last day to apply for a mail-in or civilian absentee ballot
November 3, 2020
General election - polls open 7 am to 8 pm
November 6, 2020
Last day for county boards of elections to receive mailed in and civilian absentee ballots postmarked at the latest November 3
NOTE: The November 6th date for county election officials to receive mail-in ballots may change, because after Election Day the Supreme Court may revisit Pennsylvania Republicans case opposing this extension. These ballots will be kept segregated because of this potential change.
Keeping Track of Possible Modifications to Voting
This election year has seen an extraordinary number of changes to how we vote, and more changes may be coming our way! Stay on top of it with the links below:
How to Vote, Step #1: Are You Eligible?
You are eligible if:
you have been a U.S. citizen for at least one month
you have resided in Pennsylvania at least 30 days
you are 18 or older on election day (Tuesday, November 3)
you are not serving time for a felony
How to Vote, Step #2: Register
When you register to vote it means you have been added to your county's list of eligible voters (county's manage elections). To register you must first fill out and submit a form that is then reviewed by your county officials. Once you are approved you will receive a voter registration card in the mail.
You can register to vote online, or you can register via other means. One question on the form is do you want to register with a political party in order to vote in their primary. Not sure which (if any) to pick? Try the "Political Typography Quiz" from Pew Research to see where you fit in.
Think you're registered but aren't sure? It's easy to check!
How to Vote, Step #3: Vote In Person or by Mail-In Ballot?
If you want to vote in person, you need to know where your polling place is. Your polling place is where you go to vote, and is assigned based on your address. Polling places in Pennsylvania are open from 7 am to 8 pm on election day. If it's your first time voting at your polling place, you will need to provide an approved form of identification.
If you prefer to vote via mail or will be away (an absentee) on election day, you need to apply for a mail-in ballot by 5 pm on October 27. A ballot is a list of candidates voters mark to indicate their choices. After applying for a mail-in ballot you can check your election ballot status.
How to Vote, Step #4: Vote!
If you are voting in person, go to your polling place on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3. Polling places are open from 7 am to 8 pm.
If you are using a mail-in ballot it can be returned in several ways (note that for your ballot to be counted it must be enclosed in the inner secrecy envelope before being inserted into the mailing envelope):
- mail it back (note that it must be received by your county's election officials by 8 pm on November 6, and must be postmarked at latest November 3; the mailing envelope will be prepaid so you won't need stamps)
- put it in a dropbox in your county, starting from the date your county sets to 8 pm on November 3 (note that you can return only your own ballot):
Another method for casting a mail-in ballot may be available in your county - going to a county election office, requesting a mail-in ballot, filling it in, and returning it on the spot. Contact your county's election office to see if this method is being offered, and for what dates (see "Additional Resources" for links to county election offices).
If you opted for a mail-in ballot but decide you want to vote in-person at your polling place on November 3, you may do so if:
- you haven't returned your mail-in ballot
- you bring your mail-in ballot with you to your polling place
Help Other Voters - Work at the Polls
Lots of people think their vote doesn't matter, and that their lives won't be affected by who wins an election. But thinking this way ignores some important facts.
First is that your elected officials may help pass laws on major issues you care about. Your vote gives you a say in just what laws are passed.
Second is that government at every level - local, state, and federal - has a BIG impact on your day-to-day quality of life. Consider:
Pennsylvania local governments (counties and municipalities) may be responsible for:
- trash, water, and sewer services
- local parks and libraries
- local road maintenance
- enforcement of local regulations and codes
- local police and courts
- property assessments
- local taxes
For detailed information on our state's local governments, see the Citizen's Guide to Pennsylvania Local Government.
Pennsylvania state government is responsible for:
- K-12 education
- state road maintenance
- state parks
- regulation of businesses
- state laws, police, and courts
- social services
- state taxes
- motor vehicle regulation
To learn more about how our state government works take a look at The Pennsylvania Manual.
The United States federal government is responsible for:
- funding to states for education, healthcare, and more
- Social Security and Medicare
- national laws
- national courts (including the Supreme Court)
- international relations
- national defense
Vote Smart's "Government 101" is a great way to learn more about how our federal government works. "Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government" gives young and old alike a straightforward introduction to the federal government.