Any qualified voter in Pennsylvania can request a “no-excuse” mail-in ballot. Voting by mail is a safe, secure, and flexible way to ensure that your vote is counted and your voice is heard in this crucial election.

Step-by-Step Guide to Voting By Mail

Check your registration status

All registered voters in Pennsylvania may apply to vote by mail. To make sure you're registered, visit the official PA website and confirm that you are registered.

Fill out your ballot

When you receive your ballot, follow the instructions to complete, sign, and seal your ballot.

Return your ballot by mail or at a secure ballot dropbox

Voters in Chester County have two options: drop off a mail-in ballot at one of several secure dropboxes (including the County Voter Services Office in West Chester) or by mail. All ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16th to be counted.

Track your ballot status

You can visit PA Voter Services to track your ballot.

Common Questions

You may apply for a Mail-in Ballot if you are a qualified voter. You must be registered to vote in order to vote by mail-in ballot.

Most voters should apply for a mail-in ballot. However, certain voters are eligible for absentee ballots:

  • College students who are not registered to vote at their school address
  • People whose work or vacation take them away from the municipality where they live
  • Those with a physical disability or illness that prevents them from going to the polling place
  • Members of the military
  • People who may have a conflict due to the celebration of a religious holiday
  • Inmates who haven’t been convicted of a felony
  • To vote by absentee ballot you must be registered to vote.

A few reasons: This year is the first in which any eligible voter can vote by mail, and due to this new option for all voters and COVID-19 health concerns, most counties are receiving unprecedented numbers of mail-in ballot applications. 

Fortunately, Chester County is geared up to be in good shape. Our county was first in Southeastern PA to certify primary election results in 2020. Chester County is also investing in major upgrades to voter services, including guarded and secure dropboxes, additional staff, and increased messaging and awareness in anticipation of the upcoming election.

Contact Chester County Voter Services as soon as possible and let them know that you have not yet received your ballot.

If you don’t receive your ballot by Election Day, you can still vote in person. You will go to your normal polling place and fill out what is called a “provisional ballot.” This ballot will be counted after verifying that your mail-in ballot was never received.

No. Mail-in ballots cannot be returned to your local polling place. However, you can drop off your ballot up to 8 p.m. on Election Day at any of the county’s dropboxes.

First, remember that you can return a completed ballot to the Voter Services office or any of the secure dropboxes by 8 p.m. on Election Day, so if you have your mail-in ballot, we encourage you to do so.

However, if you do arrive to vote at your local polling place, and you have already received a mail-in ballot, you may be asked to vote in-person using a “provisional ballot.” This ballot will be counted after Voter Services verifies that your requested mail-in ballot was never returned.

The staff of the United States Postal Service (USPS) receive special training for handling election and campaign mail. They have also been meeting with election officials in each county on a regular basis about the upcoming election and how to manage the related mail stream. There are protocols in place for managing the higher volume of election mail in 2020, but we definitely encourage all voters to return their ballots as soon as possible to ensure arrival before the deadline.

Some nonpartisan groups have been sending pre-filled voter applications to registered voters in an effort to make it easier to request a mail-in ballot. Your name, address, party affiliation, and voting history (whether or not you have voted, not who you voted for) are all public on the county’s voter rolls and may be accessed by request.

Most of these mailings are done in good faith by legitimate organizations using publicly available data. However, if you have any concerns about an application provided by a third party, simply apply on the VotesPA website instead.

Vote by Mail Myths

Voting by mail does NOT increase voter fraud.

Extensive research indicates that election and voter fraud is very rare, and there is no evidence of an increase in voter fraud in the states that primarily vote by mail. Yet repeated, false allegations of systemic, widespread fraud chip away at Americans trust in elections and can potentially discourage voters from casting ballots. For one of many sources, read this research from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Mail-in ballots are NOT left uncounted.

As long as you fill out your ballot properly and return it by the deadline, it will count the same as if you voted in person at the polls. But the deadlines are strictly enforced. In Pennsylvania, the deadline for mail-in ballots is 8 p.m. on Election Day; postmarks do not count! You can confirm that your ballot was received and counted through the tracking page on the Department of State website.

Voting by mail does NOT give any party an unfair advantage.

Rather, vote by mail has been proven to increase voter turnout regardless of party affiliation. And critically, broader access to vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic helps protect the health of voters and poll workers. For more, see this analysis by the statistics wonks at FiveThirtyEight.

Still have questions?

Chester County Voter Services is the best resource for any and all election-related questions. We encourage anyone with questions to reach out to them directly.