Election Day: Pennsylvania voter rights and other questions answered

ByNydia Han and Cheryl Mettendorf WPVI logo
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Pennsylvania voter rights and other questions answered ahead of Election Day
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On this election eve, many Pennsylvania voters have last-minute questions about how to cast their ballots and what rights they have at the polls.

As Election Day arrives, many Pennsylvania voters have last-minute questions about how to cast their ballots and what rights they have at the polls.

One thing to remember, as long as you're in line by the time the polls close at 8 p.m., you will be allowed to vote. However, that rule does not apply for drop boxes.

Action News asked top election officials to help clear up any confusion voters may have.

SEE ALSO: Provisional Ballot Info and Where to Vote in Pa. for 2020 Presidential Election

First, we asked Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar: if you haven't received your mail-in or absentee ballot or if you lost your mail ballot, what should you do?

"Don't worry, you can still vote, you'll be able to go to your polling place and vote by provisional ballot," she said.

RELATED: Tuesday will be unlike any Election Day you've ever seen

And if you haven't returned your mail ballot, Boockvar says do not put it in the mail.

"Do not put ballots in the mail. Hand-deliver your mail ballot to your county election office, satellite election office or other designated dropbox or drop-off location today. Do it today. Do not wait," said Boockvar.


If you encounter a problem while trying to vote in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Delaware, you can contact the following hotlines:



New Jersey:



Call the Department of Elections in your county

Also note, "voted" mail ballots will not be accepted at polling places and some drop boxes will close or be unavailable sooner than 8 p.m. Election Day.

"Also a reminder that under Pennsylvania law, voters may only return their own ballots," Boockvar said.

And with a couple of exceptions, under Pennsylvania law, voters may only return their own ballots. The only exceptions to this are for voters with a disability who have designated someone in writing to deliver their ballot, or for voters who need an emergency absentee ballot.

RELATED: Philadelphia prepares for 'avalanche' of mail-in ballots

If you have COVID-19 or are quarantining, you can still vote in Pennsylvania by filling out an emergency absentee ballot.

DOWNLOAD: Emergency absentee ballot

The application can be downloaded on your county's website and physically submitted by 8 p.m.

"They could get it down there themselves. They could also download a designated agent form and authorize someone else to take their application to City Hall. And that same person would get the ballot back out to them, complete and get it back to the city. It's a series of steps that people would have to follow. If you're not feeling well, you better take care of this tomorrow morning," said Pat Christmas, policy director of Committee of 70.

According to CDC guidance Monday night, you can also vote in person if you are currently recovering from Covid-19 or quarantining, but special precautions need to be taken.

"CDC's recommendations for isolating someone who has Covid-19 or quarantining someone who was in close contact with a person with Covid-19 would not preclude them from exercising their right to vote," a CDC spokesperson wrote in an email to CNN on Monday.

"In-person voting can be carried out safely following CDC's recommendations for polling location and voters," according to the spokesperson.

Boockvar and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine reminded Pennsylvanians who are currently in quarantine due to COVID-19 to contact their County Elections Office for an emergency absentee ballot if they were planning to vote in person but now cannot.

The application must be physically submitted by 8 p.m.


We also asked Thoai Nguyen, with immigrant support agency SEAMAAC, about possible forms of voter intimidation or suppression at the polls.

"You need to take a test, you need to speak English, you need to provide your ID," Nguyen said are some falsehoods to look out for.

The only time you have to show ID to vote is if you are a first-time voter.

And voters who need assistance--Nguyen said you can have help in the voting booth.

"The only thing that I would say is that you want to avoid using the word interpreter or translator," said Nguyen.

That's because a poll worker could require certification for those official designations.

"So we're asking folks to say that you're assisting, you're an assister or an assistant," Nguyen added.

Also, know that person cannot be your boss or someone affiliated with a labor union.

If you returned your mail-in ballot but the tracker shows it has not been received or if there's any other issue, it's best to go to your polling place and vote on a provisional ballot. It will count if your mail ballot is not found and accounted for.

Election 2020 resources: