MAIL-IN VOTING IS YOUR BEST OPTION
THANK YOU FOR VOTING! For an introduction before you get into details, see our post “DECIDING HOW TO VOTE STEP BY STEP” and this 30-second video about voting by mail. You are considered to be Voting by Mail however you turn in your ballot obtained for that purpose.
Ballots should start being mailed to voters who have so requested in late September and be received within a week or two. Mail-in votes will start being counted at 7am on election day.
Questions? Please call the Chester County Democratic Office at 610-692-5811.
As of Sept. 29, Chesco Voter Services says:
- Ballots start going out October 8th.
- Voters who supplied an individual email address will be notified when their ballot is sent out.
- They recommend not mailing voted ballots back after October 19. Drop them off.
- Voter Services will post dropbox locations on chesco.org/election on October 12.
- There is a 24-hour, 7-days a week drive-up dropbox at the front of the Chester County Voter Services, 601 Westtown Road, West Chester, PA 19380. They’re planning on two others.
- You can not drop off anyone else’s ballot, even your spouse’s. Voters will only be permitted to drop off their ballot, unless they’ve applied to become a designated agent for an incapacitated person at at chesco.org/election.
- Suspicious dropoffs will have their license plate photographed.
- Officers who retrieve ballots may or may not be alone, but will be required to wear active body cameras (a potential point of failure, if you ask me.)
- Out-of-state voters who receive ballot late are permitted to return their ballots expedited via UPS, FedEx, etc.
APPLYING FOR YOUR MAIL-IN BALLOT
You can apply online for a mail-in ballot at the State site. Or call 1-877-VOTESPA. You must apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot for each election, unless you have requested an annual ballot (that request must be renewed each calendar year; you will receive a reminder every February).
You can also download, print and complete a mail-in paper application. (For instructions in Spanish: here and for many other languages click on the little globe or “Translate” in the upper right corner). Or you can pick up a blank application form in person (bring identification, mask and ID; there coulkd be a wait there) at Voter Services, 601 Westtown Rd, Suite 150, West Chester, PA 19380, in the Chesco Government Services Building (in West Goshen just east of West Chester Borough) OR at the 2 Satellite Offices (see below under DELIVERING YOUR BALLOT IN PERSON).
If you apply online and enter a driver’s license or PennDot ID number, indicate your name as on that document, not as in your voter ID card if different.
On the written application, your municipality is the political entity where you live (e.g., West Goshen), not your postal address (which, for West Goshen, would be West Chester). “Ward” applies to just a few municipalities, e.g., West Chester ward 3. “Voting district” refers to precinct number, which for that ward is 835. But those answers are not essential!
Voter Services must receive your application for a mail-in ballot one week in advance: by 5:00 p.m. on the Tuesday before the election. Postmarks do not count. But that is really too late to be confident. Apply as early as you can!
NOT SURE WHERE YOU STAND IN THE PROCESS?
After a week or so has gone by, check your status here. The “Status” column can show four different cases:
• No Record means you haven’t applied yet or that your ballot has yet to be processed. It may take up to 10-14 business days from the time you submit your application for processing.
• Pending means your application was received and approved, but that your ballot has not been mailed yet.
• Processed means your application was received and approved, and your ballot has been mailed.
• Vote Recorded means Voter Services has received your ballot and recorded your vote.
If that web site does not help you, you can ask Voter Services at 610-344-6410.
FILLING OUT YOUR BALLOT
When you are filling out the ballot, be sure to follow instructions precisely. Use one ballpoint pen with black ink.
Pennsylvania no longer has straight party voting. You must vote for every office individually. All races are important! Please vote your whole ballot. Do your homework online (one of the advantages of voting by mail: you can check the internet as you vote).
You have to return 3 items (see what they look like in this PA Dems video, source of image of completed back of outside envelope).
1) The completed ballot inside…
2) The inner “secrecy” envelope* labeled OFFICIAL ELECTION BALLOT (do not write anything on it; seal it) inside…
3) The outer envelope* (which you have filled out on the back, with the name under which you are registered to vote, signed, and sealed.** You need a witness only if you had help filling out the ballot.
* According to Chesco Voter Service (2020 info): If you fail to enclose the inner envelope, your vote will not count. But if you realize you have lost the inner envelope, Voter Services says you can replace it with any sealed envelope (with no personal info on it). If you seal your ballot in the outer envelope and then realize you did not include the inner envelope, you must request a new ballot or vote in person, as a ballot whose envelope that has been opened and resealed will not be counted.
** Sign as usual, but don’t worry about minor variations because the PA Department of State has said: “The Pennsylvania Election Code does not authorize the county board of elections to set aside returned absentee or mail-in ballots based solely on signature analysis by the county board of elections.”
SENDING YOUR BALLOT AND RECEIVING CONFIRMATION
Voter Services must receive your filled-out ballot by election day. But mail it by October 20 to circumvent mail delays and expedite processing.
You should have received a postage-paid return envelope, but check before dropping it in the mail.
Or, pay extra to use a company like UPS or FedEx (put ballot and its 2 envelopes inside the commercial envelope).
If you have applied for your ballot online (above) and included an e-mail address, you will receive notifications when your:
• application is processed
• ballot is sent
• voted ballot is received by Voter Services
Otherwise, you can check online (see NOT SURE WHERE YOU STAND IN THE PROCESS? above).
DELIVERING YOUR BALLOT IN PERSON
You can drop off your ballot in its 2 envelopes yourself in person at Voter Services, 601 Westtown Rd, Suite 150, West Chester, PA 19380. The dropbox in the lobby is available 24/7 until 8pm on election day; of course you need to already have your ballot to use the drop box; respect any applicable social distancing and mask requirements; take ID in case needed. To register to vote (through 15 days before election day) or request a mail-in ballot (through one week before election day), go when the office is open, 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday. In that case, you may need to have an easy temperature check and go through Security. Procedures can change.
Subject to verification: beginning 30 days before election day, you can do all the same at the two Satellite Offices in the public libraries in Chester Springs and Oxford. Take mask and ID.
Subject to verification: Beginning 3 weeks before the electoin, you can also drop off your ballot (in its envelopes) at a number of other public libraries designated as dropbox locations (click to see locations and hours). Take mask and ID.
IF YOU DO NOT RECEIVE YOUR BALLOT IN TIME TO SEND IT OR DROP IT OFF OR JUST AREN’T SURE
If you have your mail ballot but did not mail it or drop it off, you can take it to your polling place on election day and ask for it to be voided. If you take the full packet including the 2 envelopes, then a regular ballot will be issued to you. If you don’t bring the needed parts, then you can vote provisionally (less desirable). Take ID just in case. This is the only option on this page that does not count as voting by mail.
If you aren’t sure if you sent your ballot in time and did not drop it off, you can also go to your polling place on election day. If the County did receive your mail-in ballot on time, that will count. If not, ask to vote in person.
If you qualify as an absentee voter, you must vote by absentee ballot. You will need to indicate your reason, either
• I will be absent from my municipality
• I have an illness or physical disability
Otherwise, the process is the same as for mail-in voting.
There is also a provision for emergency absentee voting if a sudden emergency (like being hospitalized) after the absentee ballot application deadline prevents you from going to the polls as planned. Download the application form here and the authorization form here. When you follow a link to the PA Department of State for voting info you will see the image below.