The ordeal Wisconsin voters went through to be able to vote in person can sound as a warning to Pennsylvania voters and to those throughout the country. Although the Pennsylvania primary has been put off until June 2 we do not know what conditions await at the polls at that time and there is an alternative now which is Pennsylvania’s new vote by mail system. The point bears repeating. First you need to request a ballot on time and then return it on time so, as the expression goes, “no time for wasting!” Here is how.
Step One. Are You Registered? It may seem like a simple question but you may have moved, allowed registration to lapse, or the record might be incorrect. So check registration first.
For everyone who has a Pennsylvania driver’s license or the alternative Penn DOT ID card, take it out. If you also have online access through your computer, iPad, android or whatever, go to www.votespa.com. You want to check your Voter Registration Status. If you are not currently registered it will also help you to register. The simple on-line screen will ask you your County of residence, zip code, first name, last name, and date of birth. Click “Search” and it will tell you if you are ACTIVE, your political party, your U.S. Congressional District, and State Senate and State House Districts. It will also tell you your normal polling place but this will not be an issue if you are voting by mail. Note that, with social distancing and other rules, it is possible your regular polling place may have changed anyway.
Step 2. Request a Mail-In Ballot no later than May 26, 2020. Note the sooner the better. You need to give the Elections Office enough time to get the ballot to you well before election day. Note also that, in the past, in order to vote without going to the polls, you needed an excuse for an absentee ballot. This is no longer true so, although the form will ask the question whether you are disabled or unable to be at your regular polling place on election day, the questions are irrelevant. You can answer them either way but you can vote by mail-in ballot without any excuse.
In order to complete your request for a mail-in ballot online, you will go to www.pavotes.com/applymailballot and click and answer the questions. You will need the information from your valid Pennsylvania driver’s license or Penn DOT ID card to complete this online. If you do not have either of these, there is a form that can be accessed and mailed but obviously the online request is faster. The request for mail-in ballot must be received by 5:00 pm on May 26, 2020. If you make the request using the on-line form, then you have completed the time requirement at the time of sending and you will receive an online confirmation in the email you supply for response.
Step 3. After you request and receive the mail-in ballot you must return it to be at the election office no later than June 2, 2020 at 8:00 pm. If you vote by mail, you do not return it to the polling place. It is to be returned to the election office – and give it plenty of time to get there. In a worst case scenario you could carry it in person to the election office on primary election day, June 2, no later than 8:00 pm but you do not want to do this. Also, if you vote by mail, you do not change your mind later and go to the polling place. Your mail-in ballot is your vote.
Step 4. If you wish you can request to be added to the mail-in ballot request list. This is the bonus. If you go through this procedure once and request to be added to the mail-in ballot list, you do not need to go back and register to vote by mail for each election. In other words you should be set for the general election including the presidential and other offices in November. It can be worth it.
Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.