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PHAN’s Voter Guide: Voter Rights

October 1, 2020

In a recent court ruling, Pennsylvania ruled that mail-in ballots must be placed in a “secrecy envelope” within the bigger postmarked envelope, or they will not be counted. The secrecy envelope allows for privacy, meaning someone can’t hold up your envelope to the light to see what’s on your ballot. The secrecy envelope comes with your ballot, so be sure to use both envelopes. The secrecy envelope also must not have any markings on it.

This is what the secrecy envelope that comes with your mail-in ballot will look like.

It’s very important that you follow the instructions on your ballot.

The mail-in ballots must make it to the county elections office before November 6th — three days after Election Day — or they won’t be counted. If you change your mind about mailing in your ballot, you can bring your ballot and return envelope to your polling place on Election Day and poll workers will cancel it, so you can vote in person. If you don’t have it, you can still vote through a special process called provisional voting.

When signing your mail-in ballot, make sure you sign it the same way you signed your voter registration. Election officials may be comparing the two to check the validity of your ballot. 

Mailing in your ballot is safe and your vote will be counted. Just make sure you mail your ballot as early as possible and use the secrecy envelope. Apply for a mail-in ballot here.

If you’re unsure about whether or not your ballot was counted, you can check your ballot status here.

In-person voting

Find your polling place here. Some counties have already posted their polling locations online. 

You might need to show ID if you’re voting for the first time in your election district. This can be in the form of a license, student ID, employee ID, or even a bill or bank statement that has your name and address on it. If you’ve voted in your district before, they should not ask for your ID. Here is a list of approved IDs for first time voters.

You may be given a provisional ballot if your eligibility to vote is questioned or if you previously requested a mail-in ballot. It will be counted once election officials verify your eligibility. After you vote with a provisional ballot you can check if it was counted here.

If you want to vote early and in-person, you can go to your local county elections office and request, receive, fill out, and submit your ballot all in one go. On Election Day (November 3rd), polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.. As long as you are in line by 8 p.m., you will be able to vote.

Many people are concerned about voting in person due to COVID-19. Poll workers are required to wear masks and other precautions will be taken to lower the risk of transmission. Still, do your research. Here’s a guide to thinking about voting during COVID-19.

If you want to be a poll worker, you can fill out this form. This is a paid position!


There will be accessibility accommodations at every polling place. 

These voting systems will have 

  • Audio ballot
  • Tactile keyboards
  • Dual switches or sip-and-puff
  • Large text
  • High contrast and dark mode

If you want to learn more about these systems, click here. 

For language barriers, only three counties in Pennsylvania offer assistance in Spanish: 

  • Lehigh County
  • Berks County
  • Philadelphia County

You can bring a person with you to help you vote as long as they are not your employer, union representative, or the judge of elections. To learn more about language assistance, click here.

Important links:

Online voter registration application

Print-out voter registration application

Check your voter registration status

Mail-in ballot application

Track your mail-in ballot

Check your ballot status

List of accepted ID for voter identification

Find your polling place

Check your provisional ballot status

Poll worker interest form

Accessible voting systems

Language assistance

Voting during COVID-19