2020 presidential election: New mail-in ballots, other new voting rules in Pennsylvania
A mail-in ballot option for all voters is just one of the voting changes for Pennsylvania in the 2020 presidential election year. Wochit
Planning to vote in the 2020 presidential election?
Pennsylvania has new rules that officials say will make it easier for voters to cast their ballots. That includes more time to register to vote, mail-in ballots, and later deadlines to return absentee ballots.
The primary is set for Tuesday, April 28. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Here's what you need to know:
What's the new deadline to register?
Voter registration in Pennsylvania runs up until 15 days before an election. In the past, you had to register 30 days ahead of time.
The deadlines will be:
- April 13 for the primary
- Oct. 19 for the general
Applications are available online at votespa.com or through the local elections office.
Want to skip going to the polls?
Voters can now apply for mail-in ballots — no excuse needed!
Absentee ballots are still available for voters, too, but those require a specific excuse — illness or disability, away at college, being out-of-town for vacation — as the reason why you will not be in your municipality on election day, said Laura Weis, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Voters will need to apply for one of these ballots in advance. Applications are available online or by calling the local county elections office.
The deadline to apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot is:
- April 21 for the primary
- Oct. 27 for the general
The application must be in the election office by 5 p.m. on that day.
On the application, voters can sign up to receive mail-in ballots for the year. The application has to be renewed annually, and those, too, can be sent through the mail.
What is the deadline to return absentee or mail-in ballots?
The ballot must be in the local elections office by 8 p.m. on the day of the election in order to count.
The ballots can be dropped off at the office — even on election day.
Don't miss these important voting deadlines. Wochit
Can I go to the poll if I voted by absentee or mail-in ballot?
No, you cannot go to the polls to vote if you applied for an absentee or mail-in ballot.
The poll books will be marked with information on whether voters requested an absentee or mail-in ballot, Weis said. This is to ensure that voters cannot cast multiple ballots.
What if voters cannot meet the deadline for returning the absentee or mail-in ballot?
Voters can go to the polls and ask for a provisional ballot. However, only one of the ballots will count. If the mail-in or absentee ballot arrives by the deadline, that is the one that will be counted, according to the Department of State.
Casey Brady, a voting technology coordinator for York County, demonstrates the new paper ballot voting machines and how they alert voters to errors. York Daily Record
How will officials ensure no one over-voted?
In addition to marking the poll books with information on whether voters have requested absentee or mail-in ballots, staff also will conduct post-election reconciliation of ballots, poll books, numbered lists of voters, and more for identifying and reporting anomalies, Weis said.
Can I vote straight party?
No, the shortcut has been eliminated, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State website.
Voters will have to go through the ballot and individually select the candidates they want.
Can I use a sticker to vote for a write-in candidate?
No. Voters cannot use stickers or paste-on labels, according to the website. The machines cannot read them, and it could cause a jam.
Please don't jam the machines. This resulted in some problems during the election in the fall.
What happened to the old machines?
If you haven't voted recently, be aware that all counties now have new voting systems.
Voters in York County, for example, are now shading in ovals with a special pen on paper ballots to vote for candidates. The ballots are scanned through a machine. The county started using the new system in the fall.
All counties were required to select a new, voter-verifiable paper record voting system by the end of 2019. The old systems do mot meet the current standards for security, audit ability and accessibility, Weis said.
Want to see a demonstration of the new voting system in your county? Go to votespa.com to check it out.
Will the results be delayed?
With changes to the election rules, it's not clear when results will be available.
County elections staff cannot start counting the absentee and mail-in ballots until after the polls close at 8 p.m. on election day. They have up to three days to do so.
No one knows at this point how many voters will opt for mail-in and absentee ballots.