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Don’t vote naked: Seal ballot in secrecy envelope and outer return envelope


Harrisburg, PA – Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar reminded mail ballot voters that they must seal their ballot in both the white inner secrecy envelope and the pre-addressed outer return envelope for their ballot to count.

“A so-called ‘naked ballot’ is one that is returned without being enclosed in both envelopes, and it won’t be counted. Don’t let your ballot go naked. Remember to “dress” it in both envelopes before returning it,” Secretary Boockvar said. “We want every eligible Pennsylvanian to vote and have their voice heard.”

Mail ballot voters also must complete and sign the voter’s declaration on the outer envelope.  Even if voters plan to drop off their ballot in person in a drop box or other designated drop-off location, they must still include the pre-addressed outer envelope with their voter’s declaration signed or their ballot won’t be counted.

Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar and Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe Discuss Election Preparations


To vote by mail, remember these tips and requirements:

  • Anyone registered to vote is eligible to vote by mail. The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 election is Oct. 19. Pennsylvanians can register to vote or check their registration status at votesPA.com.
  • Anyone who plans to vote by mail must apply for a mail ballot. Voters can apply online or print a paper application at votesPA.com and return it to their county board of elections. The deadline to apply for a mail ballot is 5 p.m. Oct. 27, but voters are urged to apply now, so they have plenty of time to return their ballot before the election.
  • Voters who applied for a mail-in ballot for the primary and asked to be added to the permanent annual mail ballot list do not need to reapply for a mail ballot for the general election. Voters can call their county board of elections to ask whether they are a permanent annual voter and to get information about the timing for their ballot, or they can check the status of their mail ballot at votesPA.com.
  • While applying for an absentee ballot still requires the voter to provide a reason, mail-in voting does not.
  • Once the voter’s application for a mail ballot is verified, their county election office will mail them a ballot after they have been finalized and printed.
  • As soon as the voter receives the ballot, the voter should:
    • Read the instructions carefully.
    • Fill out the ballot, being sure to follow instructions on how to mark selections.
    • Seal the ballot in the white inner secrecy envelope that indicates “official ballot.” Make sure not to make any stray marks on the envelope.
    • Then seal the inner secrecy envelope in the pre-addressed outer return envelope which the voter must sign.
    • Complete and sign the voter’s declaration on the outside of the outer return envelope.
  • If the ballot is not enclosed in both envelopes, it will not be counted.
  • If the voter does not sign the outer envelope, the ballot will not be counted.
  • The voter should then return their voted ballot to their county board of elections, as soon as possible. Voters have two options for how to return their ballot:
    • Voters can mail their ballot. Mailed ballots must be postmarked by 8 p.m. Nov. 3 and received by the county election office by 5 p.m. Nov. 6. The Department of State is providing pre-paid postage on mail ballot return envelopes.
    • Voters can hand-deliver their ballot to their county election office or other officially designated site. Hand-delivered ballots must be received by 8 p.m. Nov. 3. Some counties are providing drop-boxes or drop-off sites for mail ballots. Check your county’s website for information on locations. The Department of State has posted a list of drop-off locations and is adding information as it becomes available.
  • 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 are hospitalized or need an emergency absentee ballot.
  • If a voter submits a voted mail ballot, they cannot vote at the polls on election day.
  • Voters who apply for and receive a mail ballot and then decide they want to vote at the polls must bring their entire unvoted mail ballot packet with them to be voided, including both envelopes.
  • If a voter applies for a mail ballot, but does not return it and no longer has the mail ballot and envelopes, they may vote by provisional ballot at the polls on election day. Their county board of elections will then verify that they didn’t vote by mail before counting their provisional ballot.

Secretary Boockvar noted that eligible voters also have two other voting options:

  • Voters can go in person to their county election offices or satellite election office any time they are open, apply for a ballot, fill it out and return it on the spot – all in one visit. The deadline to vote this way is 5 p.m. October 27.
  • If they have not voted by mail or in person ahead of the election, they can vote at the polls on election day between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. They should wear a mask and follow social distancing guidelines. The Department of State is supplying counties with masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, floor marking tape and other supplies for polling places so Pennsylvanians can safely exercise their right to vote during this COVID-19 emergency.

“Pennsylvanians now have more voting options – that are more secure, accessible and convenient – than ever before,” Secretary Boockvar said. “Whichever option you choose, the most important thing is that you vote.”

For more information on voting in Pennsylvania, visit the department’s voting website votesPA.com.