Thanks to passage of Act 77 (signed into law by Governor Wolf on Oct. 13, 2019), registered voters across the Commonwealth can now vote by mail. The process is simple and can be used in all future elections including this year’s Primary Election on April 28, 2020. Unlike absentee voting where a reason for doing so is required, no reason is required to vote by mail-in ballot. All voters have to do is apply for an application, which must be received by Allegheny County’s Elections Division by 5:00 p.m. on the Tuesday before the election (see section below on how to apply for a mail-in ballot). For the upcoming Primary, that means mail-in ballot applications as well as absentee ballot applications must be received (not postmarked) by no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21, 2020.
Once the application is received and approved, a ballot will be sent to the registered voter. After filling in the ballot, it can then by returned by mailing it to or dropping it off at the Allegheny County Elections Division, located at 542 Forbes Ave., Suite 604, in Downtown Pittsburgh. Whichever way is chosen, the County must receive the voter’s ballot by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day for it to be counted.
In addition to voting by mail in the upcoming Primary, registered voters may also ask to be placed on a permanent mail-in voter list. Once put on the list, voters will have a mail-in ballot application mailed to them by the first Monday in February each year. If a voter completes and returns the application, the County will send ballots in the mail for all the elections that take place that year, as well as for any special election held through the third Monday in February of the next year.
There are several stipulations voters should be aware of if they choose to vote by mail. For example, if a voter is sent a mail-in or absentee ballot and the county receives the completed ballot by the deadline (8:00 p.m. on Election Day), that voter may not vote at their polling place. That vote is considered final at that point. However, if the voter mailed in their ballot too late, or if they are unsure whether the County received their voted ballot in time, they can use a provisional ballot at their polling place. If the voter was sent a mail-in ballot, but the polling place has no record of having received it, the voter may also use a provisional ballot. However, if the County does receive the mail-in ballot in time, that ballot, not the provisional ballot, will be counted.
All counties in Pennsylvania are authorized to begin processing mail-in applications beginning 50 days before an election (March 9 for the 2020 Spring Primary).
How to Apply for a Mail-In or Absentee Ballot
There are several ways to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot. Registered voters can apply online at VotesPA.com/ApplyMailBallot. They will need a valid PA driver's license or photo I.D. from the PA Department of Transportation to do so.
Voters can also apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot by mail. To do so, they must complete a paper mail-in or absentee ballot application, which can be downloaded by visiting www.votespa.com. Once the voter has completed the application, it should be mailed to the Allegheny County Elections Division at 542 Forbes Avenue, Suite 604, Pittsburgh, PA, 15219-2953. The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is one week before the election.
Voters can also apply in person at the Allegheny County Elections Division.
When to Use an Absentee Ballot
Absentee ballots should be used for Upper St. Clair registered voters if they plan to be out of the municipality on Election Day or if they have a disability or illness. A reason for requesting such a ballot will be required. For example, reasons for applying for an absentee ballot include
- College students who are not registered to vote at their school address;
- People whose work or vacation take them away from the municipality where they live;
- Those with a physical disability or illness that prevents them from going to the polling place;
- Members of the military;
- People who may have a conflict due to the celebration of a religious holiday; and
- Inmates who have not been convicted of a felony.
Registered voters who have a permanent disability or illness can now request to receive an absentee ballot annually. Once their request to receive an annual absentee ballot is approved, they will automatically receive ballots for the remainder of the year, and they do not need to submit an application for each election.
For more information on mail-in ballots and other voting information, visit: www.votespa.com.