How to Fill Out the Vote By Mail Online Application
Pennsylvania’s online request form for mail-in ballots is relatively straightforward, but there are a couple of things to watch out for.
“Absentee” vs “Mail-In” Ballots
Confusingly, you may apply for either an “absentee” or a “mail-in” ballot. Absentee ballots represent the “old way:” you need to attest that you will not be able to be physically present at your polling place on Election Day, and you are required to a provide a reason for being absent. Mail-in balloting is the “new way”: no excuse or justification is required for requesting to vote by mail. The vote-by-mail ballots are identical in both cases.
So why are there two ways? Why isn’t there just the new way? The reason lies in the fact that absentee ballots are provided for in the state Constitution, and can’t be removed from the Constitution except through a complex amendment process. In the interest of time, the existing absentee provisions were left in place, and the newer, more expansive no-excuse option was added.
In order to take advantage of the new, no-excuse vote by mail option, simply answer NO to each of the first three questions in the online application form (the second and third questions appear once you answer No to the first one):
Yes, this is confusing.
Possible problem with apartment numbers?
During the primary, election officials in Montgomery County reported a flaw in the part of the application that collects address information. A voter who wrote an apartment number in the “Address Line 2” field, instead of the “Unit #” field, didn’t have that included when the mail ballot is printed. So ballots went out with no apartment number. We don’t know whether this flaw is fixed, but if you have an apartment number, you may want to put in the first address line, or in the “Unit #” field.