Vote by Mail: Mail-In or Absentee Ballots
Vote by Mail: No Excuse Required
You can now vote by mail. No excuse required!
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
You may still apply for an absentee ballot if you will be out of town or have an illness or physical disability. But any voter can apply for a mail-in ballot with no excuse required.
You can apply online if you have a PA Driver’s License or a PennDot Id number. If you do not have one of these IDs, you will have to apply via paper application. Or you can apply in person at Chester County Voter Services in West Chester.
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.)
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:
Opt-in for the general election!
When you apply for a mail-in ballot, you can choose to be included on a list that will ensure you are also sent a mail-in ballot for all elections during the year. (In practice this just means the general election in the fall, in addition to the spring primary.) This will save you the trouble of applying for a new mail-in ballot for the general election in the fall — it will automatically be sent to you. We strongly encourage you to choose this effort-saving option.
When to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot
Online applications must be completed one week prior to the election (Tuesday May 26th for the June 2nd primary). Paper applications must be received at Chester County Voter Services by 5pm one week prior to the election (5pm, Tuesday May 26th for the June 2nd primary). However, we recommend requesting your Mail-in or Absentee Ballots early to ensure that you have plenty of time to receive the ballot, complete it, and return it in time for it to be counted!
When mail-in or absentee ballots must be returned
Mail-in and absentee ballots must be received at Chester County Voter Services by 8pm on election day (the same time the polls close). We encourage you to mail your voted Mail-in & Absentee Ballots early to ensure that they arrive in time to be counted! Or deliver them directly to Chester County Voter Services in West Chester:
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. With the primary moving to June 2, the calendar has shifted, so you should expect to see your absentee ballot some time starting in the third week of April. 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.
If I request a mail-in or absentee ballot, can I still vote at the polls on election day?
Note that the rules are a bit different for the 2020 primary and the general election.
2020 Primary: if you request a mail-in ballot, you will not be allowed to vote a normal ballot at the polls. If you go to the polls and tell the Judge of Elections that you did not complete the ballot and mail it back, or that you didn’t do it in time for it to arrive on election day, they may allow you to vote a provisional ballot Your provisional ballot would only be used if your mail-in ballot did not make it to voter services on time. We strongly recommend that if you request a mail-in ballot for the primary, that you vote the mail-in ballot and be sure to get it back in time. Try to avoid a provisional ballot.
2020 General Election: when Harrisburg delayed the primary to June 2nd, they also changed the rules for this situation. For the general election, if you request a mail-in ballot, but decide that you would prefer to vote at the polls, you can take your mail-in ballot to the polls where the Judge of Elections can ‘spoil’ that ballot and then you can vote a normal ballot.
To check the status of your absentee ballot application
PA Voter Services has an online tool here where you can check the status of your ballot.
- For more, take a look at this video on mail-in voting from the PA Dems.
- Learn more about PA’s new voting legislation.
- Opinion pieces on VBM: