For the first time ever, I volunteered as a poll worker in Pennsylvania’s primary election held a few weeks ago. I’ve always wanted to do it, I just never took the time to follow-up. As a kid, I can remember going to the polls with my parents and my mother letting me punch the ballot for her. I absolutely loved doing that with her. Voting was something I always looked forward to doing when I was old enough. As I got older and started traveling more, I realized what a valuable right we all have as American citizens to vote for our government. So many people around the world don’t have that right, or their elections are not fair elections. I believe I appreciated our election system even more after I went to law school and really started understanding what our different levels of government do and how local government, in particular, can really have an effect on our day to day lives.
With so much uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 right now, and potentially for the November general election, I really wanted to make you aware of all the voting options you have to make sure your vote gets counted without being fearful for your health.
1) Mail-in Voting
Pennsylvania, for the first time ever, allowed mail-in voting without a reason needed in this year’s primary. A lot of people voted this way in the primary. This is an option for the November elections and indefinitely in future elections.
This website gives you information about voting by mail or voting absentee (an absentee ballot requires a reason, while mail-in does not). This website includes a link to register for either type of ballet through an online system or a link to the paper application to print out if you prefer to mail in your application or take it directly to your County election office. You can also request the application be mailed to you by contacting your County election office. Remember, mail-in or absentee voting must be renewed every year.
2) Voting in person
Of course, you can always vote in person. There are a few things to be aware of if voting in person. If you registered for a mail-in or absentee ballot but never returned it, and you show up at your polling place on election day to vote, you will be given a paper provisional ballot to fill out at the polling station. These will be turned over to the county election officials by the polling place Judge that evening after the polls close. Once the election officials verify you did not, in fact, submit your mail or absentee ballot, your provisional ballot will be counted.
If you have a disability, you are still afforded the opportunity to vote in person. If you are concerned about how to ensure you can vote with a disability, this website outlines all the different provisions made to accommodate various disabilities:
This website is super handy, not only for anyone with a disability but frankly, for anyone (and I confess, I didn’t know it existed until I wrote this article). You select your county and the website tells you about the voting system in that county. So it shows you what the voting machine looks like and even shows you how to use it. I know sometimes these voting machines can be overwhelming (and Cumberland County just got new ones) so if you are reassured by checking out a preview, this is a great website!
Of course, one of my duties as a poll worker was to help assist people in using the machine so you can always wing it and get help from a poll worker if you need it—that’s what they are there for!
3) Assisted voting
Not only are you allowed to have someone assist you in person with voting, but someone can also assist you with a mail in or absentee ballot. This is particularly useful for people in long term care facilities or who are largely homebound. If you are the Power of Attorney Agent for a registered voter, you have the authority to request a mail-in or absentee ballot on their behalf (I have done this). I have them mail the ballot to me so it doesn’t get lost and then I take it to client and go over the ballot with them and help fill it out according to their wishes. The person I do this for always placed tremendous importance on voting and I know it brings joy that they are still able to do it and make their voice heard, even though they are not able to go in person anymore.
If you have any questions or need any help getting a mail-in or absentee ballot or how to get assistance with voting, we are happy to help. Voting is our right as Americans but it is a privilege not everyone has so I hope everyone will exercise their rights this November and vote.