2020 Voting Guide
The most consequential election in decades is upon us, there’s political unrest, a pandemic – what’s the best way to vote safely and make sure your vote is counted? The good news is, you’ve got options.
Key highlights (details below):
- Applying for a mail-in ballot gives you lots of options (at the price of a little extra complexity)
- For mail-in ballots, it’s crucial that you fill out and SIGN the voter declaration and use the extra “secrecy” envelope! Failure to do either means your ballot won’t be counted.
- Even if you applied for a mail ballot, you can vote in person at the poll on Election Day.
- Chesco will have three locations where you can do “early, in-person absentee voting.” One is open now, two will be open from 10/13 on
- There will be 13 secure drop box locations around the county for mail-in ballots, also available 10/13 on
- Any questions? Call our hotline, 484-474-0570, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vote By Mail
Under PA’s new laws, anyone may apply for a mail-in ballot, no excuses needed. If you want to use this option, apply now, to allow enough time for the process.
You can apply online or via paper application. You’ll need a PA Driver’s License, PennDOT ID, or the last four digits of your Social Security Number. Or you can apply in person at Chester County Voter Services in West Chester.
What’s (still) good about Vote By Mail?
Here are a few reasons why we recommend voting by mail:
- Secure — paper-based and validated
- Safer – avoids crowds and risk of exposure
- More convenient – no taking time off from work, no standing in lines, no childcare worries, no worries about weather, transportation, emergencies, etc.
- More informed voting – time to stop and review candidates, etc.
- Higher voting participation rates in states that vote entirely or mostly by mail
- Can use a secure drop box to avoid return mail
Check your status before applying
Before applying to vote by mail, check your voter registration if you have any doubts about your registration status. (If you haven’t voted in at least two consecutive federal election cycles, your registration may be marked Inactive. Inactive voters will be removed from voter rolls if they don’t vote during an additional two federal cycles. If you’ve moved since last voting, you should also update your registration status.)
- Apply online at votespa.com
- Track your application and ballot using the PA Ballot Tracker
- When you receive your ballot, vote it and get it back in the mail as soon as possible
- Ballots received by 8 PM on Friday, November 6 will be counted, as long as they are postmarked before 8 PM on Tuesday, November 3 (Election Day)
- Or drop your ballot in a secure drop box (see below)
How to apply to vote by mail
For more information on voting by mail (either mail-in ballots or absentee ballots), applying online or downloading a paper request form go to:
Tips on filling out the online application
For a couple of important tips on filling out the online application, see our page on How to Fill Out the Vote By Mail Online Application.
If you previously requested an absentee ballot at a different address
If a voter previously requested an absentee ballot to be sent to a college or other temporary address and now needs a mail-in ballot to be sent to their permanent address instead, the voter must call Voter Services at 610-344-6410 and make that request. (Mom or dad can’t make the request on their child’s behalf.) Warning: you’ll have to sit through a very long recording and just stay on the line. Don’t select any of the numbered options because, if you do, you’ll just get a different recorded message and then have to go back to hear the original message and options again.
When to expect to receive your mail-in ballot
Then new law mandates that mail-in ballots will begin being distributed and processed 50 days before the election. Ballot printing was held up by some court challenges, that have now been resolved. We expect ballots will begin being mailed toward the end of September. If you’ve requested a ballot and haven’t seen it before that date, don’t worry. See below for a link to check the status of your application if you’re concerned.
You should receive an email from PA Voter Services 5-7 days before they send your ballot, letting you know it’s being prepared:
Drop your mail-in ballot in a secure drop box
If you don’t want to use the mail, Chester County will have thirteen locations where you can drop your voted mail-in ballot in a secure drop box. These boxes are emptied at 8 PM daily by deputies wearing body cameras to assure clear chain of custody on the ballots. These boxes will be located at 12 county libraries, as well as the main Voter Services office. Boxes will be available from 10/13 on. For Tredyffrin, the most convenient drop box will be at the Easttown Library and Information Center.
Vote in Person
As always, you can vote in person at your polling place. Polls will be open and staffed from 7 AM to 8 PM on Election Day, November 3. Some polls may be closed or consolidated; check back here for details.
Note that you can vote in person at the poll even if you applied for a mail-in ballot!
- If you received the mail-in ballot, bring the ballot and all of its accompanying envelopes and materials to the poll. They will “spoil” the mail-in ballot and give you an ordinary in-person ballot.
- If you have NOT received the mail-in ballot, the poll workers will issue you a provisional ballot, which will be counted once your eligibility is verified.
- Don’t leave the poll without voting! Even if you don’t bring all the mail-in ballot materials, the poll workers should issue you a provisional ballot.
Early Absentee Voting
Under new rules, you can walk into one of Chester County’s three Voter Services locations, apply in person for an absentee ballot, vote the ballot, and drop it in a secure drop box, all during one visit. So you can vote up to four weeks in advance of Election Day, and see your ballot physically entrusted to Voter Services without using the mails at all.
Early voting locations:
- Chester County Voter Services, 601 Westtown Road (OPEN NOW)
- Henrietta Hankin Library (OPENS 10/7)
- Oxford Public Library (OPENS 10/7)