How to get registered and cast your ballot in the Nov. 3 election

Every voice counts. Every vote has power. Every election matters. Register to VOTE.

Every election is important; elected officials have the power to make decisions that impact nearly every aspect of your life and well-being. But given the historic challenges our country is now facing, this election may be one of the most important of our lifetimes.

The national Poor People’s Campaign (of which Just Harvest is a member) recently released a report that shows that even a small increase in turnout among poor and low-income voters can have a huge impact on election outcomes and the political landscape of America. Their participation could mean the opportunity to provide health care, jobs, wages, housing, food, clean water, and other basic necessities to those of us most in need.

Many people are already voting across the country. With multiple ways to safely vote in Pennsylvania, there’s no need to miss out on casting your ballot.

The Vote by Mail section was updated Oct. 19 with the latest info on the mail-in ballot distribution error.

Make sure you’re registered to vote:

Is your registration up to date? Have you moved, gone away to college, or changed your name? Even if you haven’t, don’t assume your registration is the same as it was: double-check!

Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, which is fast approaching. In Pennsylvania, the last day to register to vote, update your registration, or fix any registration errors is Monday, October 19. That is the online, in person, and postmark deadline.

Make a plan now to get – and cast – your ballot:

Worried about being able to safely and securely vote once you’re registered? You can review Allegheny County’s FAQ about voting, but essentially, your options are to vote in one of the following ways: in person on Election Day, by mail, or by submitting your mail-in or absentee ballot in person.

If you request a mail-in ballot, you can change your mind and decide to vote in person. You will need to take the ballot and both envelopes to your polling place and tell poll workers you wish to “spoil” your ballot so that you can vote in-person. They will take your ballot materials and return them to the county Elections division. You will then be able to vote in person. If you did not receive your ballot or cannot find it, you can still go to your polling place, but will have to cast a provisional ballot. Once the board verifies that you cast no other vote in this election (which typically takes up to seven days), the ballot will be opened, counted and added to the overall vote count.

Vote in Person

Unlike during this year’s primary election, Allegheny County is planning to keep all regular polling locations open. That means, unless you’ve moved since then, wherever you voted November 2019 is where you’ll vote this November. However, the County has identified several precincts where the usual polling place is inaccessible due to construction or its being a senior living facility. Allegheny County will send mail to voters confirming their polling place prior to the November election.

Vote by Mail – in Person

This election, due to the pandemic, Allegheny County is providing additional options for voters to quickly, safely, and securely get and return their Mail-in or Absentee ballots at eight additional county elections offices between October 10-25. Registered voters can go to one of nine locations across Allegheny County for “over-the-counter” voting. You will be able to apply for a Mail-in ballot, receive it, fill it out, and submit it – all in one visit.

Vote by Mail

If you don’t want to or are unable to vote at your polling location on Election Day, there are two options for mail ballots in Pennsylvania for you to request, complete, and return to a county election office. This election, due to the pandemic, Allegheny County is providing additional options for voters to more quickly, easily, and securely return their Mail-in or Absentee ballots, without having to send them through the United States Postal Service. Thanks to eight additional county elections offices open between October 10-25, you can go to one of nine locations across Allegheny County to drop off your completed mail-in or absentee ballot.

  • Mail-in ballot – If you are registered to vote you can request this ballot. No reason or justification is needed.
  • Absentee ballot – If you plan to be out of the municipality on election day or if you have a disability or illness, you should request this ballot type, which requires you to list a reason for needing this ballot.

The deadline for both are the same:

  • 5 pm October 27 – APPLICATIONS must be RECEIVED by the county election office
  • 8 pm November 3 – VOTED BALLOTS must be POSTMARKED. This is also the last day you can drop off a ballot at the county elections office. They cannot be brought to your polling place.
  • 5 pm November 6 – VOTED BALLOTS must be RECEIVED by the county election office – postmarks are not enough, and voted ballots cannot be dropped off at your polling place.

PLEASE NOTE: USPS recommends that voters request their ballots at least 15 days before Election Day and mail their completed ballots at least one week before the due date.

If you plan to vote by mail, make sure you carefully follow the directions: fill out the ballot bubbles carefully and completely using only blue or black ink, and sign the outer envelope using the current date (not your birthdate!) Also, be sure to put your ballot inside the inner “secrecy” envelope and seal it. Otherwise it’s considered a “naked ballot” and your vote won’t be counted!

More info on voting by mail:

PLEASE NOTE:

On October 14, the Allegheny County Elections Division announced that a ballot imaging error by the company contracted to produce the ballots resulted in incorrect ballots being sent to 28,879 voters in Allegheny County. All ballots are being re-issued and as of Oct. 19, the County reported they had been delivered to the post office for mailing, with most voters expected to receive the corrected ballots that week. The corrected ballots will have an orange bar on the outer envelope and on the declaration envelope, as well as those words.

Voters may use the state’s online ballot tracker to look up when their ballot was mailed. It can be found in the column “Ballot Mailed On.” If the date is 09/28/2020, you may have received an incorrect ballot. If you want to see the correct sample ballot for your municipality, ward and district, check the county’s webpage. If you are unsure of your municipality, ward and district, use the state’s” Find Voter Registration Status” tool. On the page, where the polling place address is listed, the municipality, ward and district are also found.

If you can, help protect voters on Election Day:

The 2020 election will be critical in defining the state of democracy in this country and will have lasting impacts on the freedom and spirit of the nation. Understanding this, the Poor People’s Campaign, Forward Justice, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund have partnered to provide voter protection support in 10 key states, including Pennsylvania.

This coalition is seeking volunteer poll monitors who they will train to observe voting conditions in low-income precincts. Poll monitors will report any problems to lawyers by phone, as well as provide PPE (personal protective equipment, like masks) to any voters who need them. There are some remote positions available for those unable to volunteer in person.

ANY QUESTIONS?

Check out these answers to Pennsylvania voter questions from WESA FM or contact Just Harvest’s communications coordinator at emilyc@justharvest.org or at (412) 440-5610.

For more info on the candidates and the referendum that will be on your ballot, check out our 2020 General Election Voter Guide for Allegheny County.

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