Mail-in voting and 'naked ballots' in Pennsylvania: Here's what to know

PHILADELPHIA -- Pennsylvania authorized a broad vote-by-mail law last year at a prescient time, just before the pandemic fueled interest in voting by mail in the state's June 2 primary election.

As a result, more than half of the 2.8 million ballots cast were mail-in or absentee ballots. That record-smashing number of votes-by-mail is expected to grow in the presidential election, when Pennsylvania could help decide the outcome.



Here's what you need to know, as provided by VotesPA.com:

What is a mail ballot?



Mail ballots allow you to vote from the comfort of your home or in-person at your county board of election's office or other designated location before Election Day. Any voter can choose to vote by mail ballot in the upcoming election using either an absentee or mail-in ballot.

Both absentee ballots and mail-in ballots are considered mail ballots. The main difference between the two mail ballots is:

Absentee ballot: you need to provide a valid reason to vote by mail ballot.

Mail-in ballot: you don't need to provide a valid reason. You can simply choose to vote by mail ballot.

Both absentee and mail-in ballots are equally safe and secure ways to cast your vote. The DOS online mail ballot application can help you decide which ballot is for you.

Absentee Ballot

If you plan to be out of the municipality on Election Day or if you have a disability or illness, you can apply to vote by an absentee ballot. You cast the ballot by returning it to your county's election office.

Mail Ballot

Recent voting reforms established a new convenient way for Pennsylvanians to vote: mail-in ballots.

Similar to an absentee ballot, you may apply to receive a mail-in ballot in the mail to complete, and return to your county board of election's office or other designated location. However, unlike an absentee ballot, you may simply request a mail-in ballot without providing a reason.

Who may apply for a mail ballot?



Any voter can choose to vote by mail ballot in the upcoming election using either an absentee or mail-in ballot.

Absentee Ballot

Registered Pennsylvania voters who may vote absentee include:

-College students.
-People whose work or vacation takes 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.

Learn more about the requirements for voting by absentee ballot.

Mail-in Ballot
Unlike an absentee ballot, any registered Pennsylvania voter has the freedom to choose vote by mail-in ballot in an election without providing a reason.

How do I apply for a mail ballot?



Online Application

Registered voters can apply to vote by absentee or mail-in ballot in an election with a valid PA driver's license or photo I.D. from the PA Department of Transportation (PennDOT).

Apply for a mail ballot today.

Apply by Mail

Download an absentee or mail-in ballot application form at votespa.com/mailballot.

Print, complete, sign, and deliver or mail the application to your county board of election's office or other designated location.

Apply In-person

Voters may apply in-person at their county board of election's office or other designated location. Once your county's ballot is finalized and available, you may request and promptly receive your mail ballot. Find a county election office near you.

How do I complete my mail ballot?



Once you receive your absentee or mail-in ballot:

-Mark your ballot.
-Place your ballot in the white inner secrecy envelope labeled "official ballot." Note: Your ballot will not be counted if it is not in the secrecy envelope.
-Put the sealed inner secrecy envelope into the pre-addressed outer return envelope where the voter must sign and seal it. Note: Be sure to sign the declaration or your ballot may not count.
-Return your ballot to your county board of election's office or other designated location.

How do I return my voted mail ballot?



Once you mark, seal, and sign your absentee or mail-in ballot, you can return it by:

-Using any U.S. Post Office or official mailbox to return your ballot by mail to your county board of election's office. Be sure to plan ahead.

-Hand-deliver your mail ballot to your county board of election's office or other designated location.

-Drop it off at a designated county board of election drop box location.

Remember: you must deliver your ballot yourself, and you cannot have someone else deliver your voted ballot for you.

When is the deadline to return my voted mail ballot?



Once you fill out your absentee or mail-in ballot, you can:

-Return your voted absentee or mail-in ballot in-person to your county board of election's office or other designated location by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

-Or mail your absentee or mail-in ballot by Election Day. Your mail ballot must be postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day and received by your county board of election by 5 p.m. the Friday after Election Day to be counted.

How can I track the progress of my mail ballot?



From when your county receives your mail ballot request to when they receive your voted ballot, you can track the progress of your absentee or mail-in ballot at VotesPA.com/MailBallotStatus.

Where can I find more information about mail ballot voting?



To learn more about voting by absentee or mail-in ballot visit VotesPA.com/MailBallot.

If you are a member of the military or an overseas civilian voter, visit information for Military and Overseas Voters.

If you are in an emergency situation, such as an unexpected illness or disability that prevented you from submitting your mail ballot application on time, you can request an Emergency Absentee Ballot.