By Marley Parish
With Election Day only one week away, Pennsylvania voters planning to cast their ballot by mail or absentee should return them by hand to make sure it arrives on time, the state’s top election official reminded on Tuesday.
County election offices must receive mail-in and absentee ballots by 8 p.m. on Nov. 8 for them to count toward final results.
“Do not wait until the last minute,” acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman said during a press conference. “Hand-deliver your mail ballot now to your county election office or authorized drop-off location to be certain your vote will be counted.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, 1.4 million people requested a mail-in or absentee ballot ahead of the 5 p.m. deadline, according to Department of State data. Of those, 918,975 have been returned — a return rate of 65 percent.
Once you receive your mail-in ballot, mark your selections in a black or blue ballpoint pen.
Place your ballot in the privacy envelope, which is labeled “Official Election Ballot,” and seal it. Then, put the privacy envelope in the larger ballot return envelope, and seal it.
Complete the voter’s declaration on the back of the ballot return envelope, including signing and dating it.
You can return your mail-in ballot by mail. Remember to put first-class postage on the front of the ballot return envelope, and be aware of United States Postal Service delivery times.
Mail-in ballots may be returned in person by dropping them off at your local elections office or other designated site.
Not every county offers secure ballot drop box locations. For specific information about drop-off locations, visit your county elections office website.
Voters may not return a completed mail-in ballot to their polling place. If you received a mail-in ballot but did not complete it, you can surrender your unvoted ballot — and both envelopes — at your polling place and vote a regular ballot in person.
Pennsylvania law prohibits another person from returning a mail-in or absentee ballot that is not their own.
The only exceptions are if you are a voter with a disability and have designated someone — in writing — to deliver your ballot or if you need an emergency absentee ballot, which can be requested after 5 p.m. on the Tuesday before Election Day.
If you did not receive or cast your mail-in ballot, you can request to vote by provisional ballot at your polling place on Election Day. After county election officials confirm that you did not vote by mail, they will count your provisional ballot post-Election Day.
If you plan to vote in-person, double-check where your precinct is here.
Marley Parish is a reporter for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this article first appeared.