The 2020 general election is less than 6 weeks away. This post is where I’m collecting information specifically to help Philadelphia voters. Some of this information may apply to other voters in Pennsylvania, but you should check with your local authorities.
I’ll be updating this post as I get additional information. You can get additional information from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Voting Guide.
Whether you’re a PA voter or not, you can register to vote at Vote.org.
If you don’t want to read through this, here are some quick links.
- Fill out the Census
- Register to Vote – PA
- Register to Vote – All US
- Check your registration – PA
- Request a mail-in/absentee ballot – PA
- Check mail-in/absentee ballot status – PA
- Find a Philly Early Voting Location/Ballot Drop-Off
- Find your in-person polling location
- See how the new voting machines work
- View a sample ballot (pending)
First, if you haven’t filled out the Census, please do so. The Census is what helps determine how congressional districts are drawn. It’s part of what determines how you’re represented in Congress and who you may be eligible to vote for. It also helps determine how much federal aid a given area gets.
You can fill out the Census online. The deadline was moved up this year, so you only have until September 30th.
Important Dates for PA Voters
The following are the state deadlines for voting related activities. However, if you’re planning to vote by mail, please assume you have 2 fewer weeks than listed. I’ve provided links that will allow you to register to vote and request a mail-in or absentee ballot online.
September 29, 2020 – First day of “early voting” in Philadelphia (See below for details).
October 19, 2020 – the last day to REGISTER before the November election. Pennsylvania residents can register online, but you’ll need your driver’s licence PennDOT ID number. If you’ve already registered, you may want to check your voter registration on or before this date just in case.
October 20, 2020 – I strongly suggest that you send in your mail-in or civilian absentee ballot by this date.
October 27, 2020 – Technically this is the last day to apply for a mail-in or civilian absentee ballot for Pennsylvanians. If you do this, I strongly recommend that, rather than requesting your ballot online, you go to your local election office.
November 3, 2020 – Election day. Your mail in or absentee ballot must be received by this date. (The PA Supreme Court extended the deadline so that ballots must now be postmarked by November 3rd and received by November 6th, but the Republican party is planning to appeal. To be safe, assume your ballet needs to be received by November 3rd.)
Ensuring* Your Mail-In Ballot is Counted
*as much as that’s possible
There are a few important things to keep in mind if you’re using a Mail-In Ballot. Not doing these things could mean your ballot won’t get counted:
- Your ballot must be received by the deadline (assume it’s November 3rd). For that to happen, you should probably turn it in in-person or mail it by October 20th.
- Your ballot needs 2 envelopes. There’s an inner secrecy envelope and an outer envelope. Make sure you use both.
- You must sign the outer ballot envelope.
- Your signature must match what’s on file with the elections office.
If you’ve already requested your mail-in ballot, you can check your mail-in ballot status online.
Early Voting and Election Offices in Philadelphia
In Philadelphia, you can vote early at one of 17 locations: 2 permanent elections offices and 15 temporary satellite offices. The Philadelphia Inquirer has information on their locations, hours and services. A few of the surrounding counties are also opening satellite elections offices, as well.
Here’s a brief list of what you can do at these satellite elections offices:
- Register to vote (until October 19th)
- Request, receive, fill out, and submit a mail ballot in one stop (until October 27th)
- Request a mail ballot to take home and submit later (until October 27th)
- Drop off a completed mail ballot (until November 3rd)
All 17 elections offices will be open 7 days a week from September 29th to November 3rd. Their hours are:
Monday through Thursday: 11:30 am to 6:30 pm
Friday through Sunday: 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Voting in Person
If you’re frustrated by the complications of mail-in ballots, you can vote in person. This year, Philly is using new voting systems. You can watch a video of how those work on the Philadelphia City Commissioners website.
Philadelphia Sample Ballots
I haven’t seen sample ballots yet. I’ll update when I do.