How to Vote Absentee in PA

October 09, 2018
By: Ellen Lyon, Deputy Director of Communications

How to Vote Absentee in PA

We, at the Department of State, encourage all registered voters to visit their polling place on election day, but some people have reasons why they can’t make the trip. The absentee ballot option exists for just such cases.

Under Pennsylvania law, registered voters can apply (PDF) for an absentee ballot if:

  • They have an illness or physical disability that prevents them from getting to the polls. Voters with disabilities may apply for permanent absentee voter status
  • They are serving overseas in the military or Merchant Marine.
  • Their work takes them away from home on election day.
  • They are college students living away from their home municipality.
  • They are observing a religious holiday on election day that precludes them going to the polls.

For more information about who is eligible to apply for an absentee ballot, visit votesPa.com.

Voters can apply in person at their county election office for an absentee ballot or fill out an application online. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is October 30, 2018. Absentee ballot applications are available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese. If a person needs assistance filling out an absentee ballot, there are forms, also in multiple languages, for designating someone to assist them.

Voters should carefully follow the instructions on the absentee ballot and then hand-deliver or mail the voted ballot to their county election office, making sure to allow enough time for the voted ballot to arrive by the November 2 deadline.

Due to the short time frame between the deadline to request an absentee ballot (October 30) and the deadline by which the county election office must receive the voted ballot (November 2), and cutbacks in service by the U.S. Postal Service, we strongly urge voters to mail their absentee ballot application (PDF) no later than October 19.

Emergency Absentee Ballots

Pennsylvanians facing emergency situations, such as an unexpected illness, can apply for an emergency absentee ballot application (PDF). The deadline to apply for an emergency absentee ballot is 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election, November 2.  This application must be notarized.

Voters can obtain a last-minute emergency absentee ballot if, after 5 p.m. on the Friday before election day, November 2, they experience an emergency or learn they must be absent from their home municipality on election day. The deadline to submit a last-minute emergency absentee ballot application is 8 p.m. on election day.

The voter must complete the last-minute emergency absentee ballot application (PDF), which is available in multiple languages, and then appear in the Court of Common Pleas in the county where they are registered to vote. If the voter is unable to appear in court, they can choose a representative to obtain the absentee ballot, deliver it to them and then return the completed ballot to their county election office.

Summary of Absentee Ballot Deadlines for the November 6 Election:

  • To apply for an absentee ballot: 5 p.m., Tuesday, October 30
  • For county election offices to receive completed non-military and domestic absentee ballots:  5 p.m. Friday, November 2
  • To apply for an emergency absentee ballot: 5 p.m., Friday, November 2  
  • To return completed military and overseas absentee ballots: Postmarked by 11:59 p.m. Monday, November 5, and received at county elections offices by Tuesday, November 13
  • To submit a last-minute emergency absentee ballot application: 8 p.m. on election day, November 6

For more information on absentee voting, visit VotesPA.com/absentee.


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