Tuesday, December 1, 2020
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Mail voting works, but what if you applied for a ballot and now want to vote in person?

By admin , in Philadelphia News , at October 1, 2020 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


If it’s lost, didn’t arrive, or you just prefer to head to the polls, here’s what to do.

You'll get a sticker if you go to the polls — but also if you drop off a ballot at one of Philly's satellite offices
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

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If you applied for a mail ballot but decided you want to vote in person instead, you’re not alone.

To be very clear: the mail voting system is legit. This is the first general election with no-excuse mail ballots in Pennsylvania, but vote-by-mail has been around for years in many U.S. states, and went off without a hitch before the coronavirus was a twinkle in 2020’s eye. Nationwide, there is almost no evidence of mail voting fraud.

In Pa., just gotta make sure your ballot isn’t naked — aka that it’s sealed in the secrecy envelope and the outer postal envelope — and everything should work just fine. Many leaders and officials have suggested mail voting is a good idea because it will reduce lines and crowing at the polls, and make it safer for poll workers (who got a hazard pay boost this year).

But it’s fair if you just want to vote in person for a sense of normalcy. Or if you’re still feeling apprehensive. The United States Postal Service, while sure it can handle the election volume, is still experiencing some delays. Plus, there are plenty of elected officials who have not inspired confidence in the process.

Even this late in the game, Pennsylvanians who were planning to cast ballots remotely can switch to doing it in person, if that makes you feel more comfortable. Here’s what you need to know.

Yes, you can, thanks to Act 12, an emergency law passed by the Pa. Legislature in March.

On Election Day, bring the ballot you got via snail mail to the polls, surrender it to the poll worker, and they’ll let you cast your vote on a regular machine. Important note: Don’t forget the envelope! You’ll need to surrender that too.

Can’t find your mail-in ballot to surrender? There’s another alternative.

If you want to vote in person, head to the polls and explain that you received a mail-in ballot, but you’d like to vote in person. The poll worker will direct you to fill out a provisional ballot — which is basically a mechanism to record your vote while the county ensures that you’re legit.

After Election Day, the county will spend a max of seven days checking that you didn’t also vote by mail. Once they sort that out, they’ll count your provisional ballot.

The downside: Your vote will be counted last. But it’ll still be counted — and you can keep tabs on its status online.

Sure can! In any Pennsylvania county, you can drop it off at your Board of Election office. Many are also looking into setting up secure drop boxes or alternate drop locations.

In Philadelphia, the City Commissioners opened 15 satellite election offices. Add those to the two permanent offices and that makes 17 locations where Philly residents can drop off completed mail ballots.

You can also show up at any of the satellites and register to vote, request a mail-in ballot, receive that ballot, fill it out, seal it, sign it and return it — all in one trip, on the same day.

If you already requested a mail-in ballot to be sent to your house, but you don’t receive it by Oct. 6, Philly’s City Commissioners are allowing folks to request a second one at these satellite offices, to receive and fill out immediately. Just show up after that date and they’ll hook you up.

Not without a little legwork.

The Committee of Seventy says you’ll have to contact your county elections office and sign an affidavit to allow someone else to drop off your ballot for you — and you’ll have to do it before they send out your ballot via mail.

If that’s important to you, you can call Philly’s county elections office at (215) 686-3469. But quick warning: We tried that, and we were on hold for 45 minutes, then forwarded to 311. You can also visit in person at City Hall Room 142.

There is a form on the City Commissioners website to request to cancel your permanent mail-in voter status. But it’s not clear if there’s a deadline by which you’ll need to complete the form to have it count for this upcoming Election Day.

For Nov. 3, it’s likely a safer bet to utilize one of the back-up plans listed above.

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