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Department of State urges voters to know their rights at the polls


Harrisburg, PA – Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid encouraged Pennsylvanians to educate themselves about their rights before they vote in person on November 2.

“Voters have the right to vote at the polls on Election Day without harassment or intimidation,” Secretary Degraffenreid said. “They can find a wealth of information about their rights at the Department of State’s site vote.pa.gov.”

Here are some important tips regarding voter rights in Pennsylvania:

  • Only first-time voters, or those voting for the first time in a new precinct, must show ID. Acceptable ID includes both photo and non-photo ID. Registered first-time voters who do not bring ID to the polls can return with identification or must be offered a provisional ballot.
  • Voters who applied for and received a mail ballot and then decide they want to vote at the polls must bring their entire mail ballot packet with them to be voided, including the unvoted mail ballot and the outer return envelope with the voter’s declaration.
  • If a voter applied for a mail ballot but did not return it and no longer has the mail ballot and envelopes, they may vote by provisional ballot at their polling place on Election Day. Their county board of elections will then verify that they did not vote by mail before counting their provisional ballot.
  • If a voter applied for a mail ballot but never received it, they should vote by provisional ballot at the polls on Election Day. Their county board of elections will then verify that they did not vote by mail before counting their provisional ballot.
  • If a voter’s name is not in the poll book, poll workers can call the County Board of Elections to see if the voter is registered in another precinct in the county. Registered voters who are in the wrong precinct polling place should go to the correct polling place to vote, but a voter who believes he or she is registered in the precinct and should be listed in the poll book is entitled to cast a provisional ballot.
  • Voters who moved within Pennsylvania but did not update their address in time before the election may vote one more time in their previous precinct, as long as they update their address at the polling place.
  • If 50 percent or more of the voting machines at a polling place are not working, voters have the right to use an emergency paper ballot. Poll workers should immediately offer the ballots but, if they do not, voters should request one rather than leave without voting.
  • If a voter is challenged on the basis of identity or residency, the voter may vote normally by signing a challenge affidavit and producing a witness who is also a registered voter in the precinct to vouch for them. If the voter cannot or does not want to produce a witness, the voter may cast a provisional ballot. Identity, residency, and qualifications as an eligible voter are the only bases for challenging a voter at a polling place.
  • Voters have the right to assistance at the polling place, including foreign language or literacy assistance. A voter may select any person to assist as long as the person is not their employer, union representative or the Judge of Elections. Voters do not need to be designated as “assistance permitted” in the poll book to receive help. A person who wants assistance will be asked to sign an Assistance Declaration at the precinct, unless the poll book already indicates “assistance permitted.”
  • Voters have the right to refuse assistance.
  • Voters have the right to vote without being subjected to intimidation, harassment, or discriminatory conduct. A voter who experiences intimidation should report it to their  county board of elections and the district attorney’s office. Voters can also call the Department of State at 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772).

In addition, the Department of State website at vote.pa.gov can help voters with election-related questions and information, including:

We strongly encourage voters to wear masks for their own safety and out of respect for other voters and for the dedicated poll workers staffing the polling places. Voters who are not wearing a mask will not be denied their right to vote.

For more information on voting and elections in Pennsylvania, visit vote.pa.gov, call the Department of State’s toll-free hotline at 1-877-VOTESPA (877-868-3772), or follow along on social media with the hashtag #ReadyToVotePA.