Can I vote during COVID-19?

Published: 28 May, 2020 | Español

From The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Jonathan Lai, Julia Terruso

Voting by mail is likely the safest way to cast a ballot during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing you to avoid polling places where you face contact with other people and touch voting machines, pens, or other materials shared with other voters and poll workers.

Elections officials have plans to disinfect machines and other objects, as well as to provide sinks for hand-washing or hand sanitizer, but for voters, absentee ballots require none of that.

What is an absentee ballot and am I eligible for one?

Absentee ballots, also known as mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, are a form of voting in which a paper ballot is sent to you by mail; you then fill it out and return it.

Any registered voter in Pennsylvania or New Jersey can vote absentee.

How do I request an absentee ballot? Can I do it online?
In Pennsylvania, you can request an absentee ballot online here if you have a PennDot driver’s license or ID number. Otherwise, you’ll need to fill out a paper application — also available on that page — and mail or hand-deliver it to your county elections office, which is still open. Elections officials tend to prefer online applications, as they are easier, faster, and less prone to data entry mistakes during processing.

What are the absentee ballot deadlines?

Pennsylvania voters have until 5 p.m. the Tuesday before an election to request an absentee ballot — May 26, in this case.

You have until 8 p.m. election day to return a completed ballot.

Note: A ballot or application must be received by county elections officials before the deadline; postmarks don’t count. Make sure to leave enough time for your ballot to be delivered.

Can I still vote in person if I requested an absentee ballot?
Yep! In Pennsylvania, you’ll be allowed to vote using a provisional ballot if you show up to a polling place. That allows elections officials to make sure you don’t vote twice since absentee ballots can be turned in on Election Day. (Provisional ballots are separated from other votes on election day and are counted only after ensuring they are legitimate.)

If elections officials confirm that you did not submit an absentee ballot, your provisional ballot will be counted. If you did submit an absentee ballot, your provisional ballot will be thrown out.

Starting in November, you will be allowed to bring the absentee ballot to the polling place and hand it over to be voided, then vote normally, no provisional ballot needed.

Read the full article: Voting by mail is a safe option during coronavirus. Here’s what you need to know about absentee ballots in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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