Need an absentee or mail-in ballot? You have until May 9 to apply | Friday Morning Coffee

Voters should allow as much time as possible to account for postal delays, acting Secretary of State Al Schmidt said

By: - April 14, 2023 7:17 am
A voting sign in Philadelphia

A voting sign in Philadelphia. (Capital-Star photo by Michala Butler)

If you’re planning on voting by mail in the May 16 primary, and you haven’t applied for your ballot yet, the meter is running.

That’s because the deadline to apply to vote by mail in next month’s election is 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 9, the Department of State, which has oversight of election issues, said Thursday.

And if you’re not registered yet, don’t worry: The Capital-Star has you covered with this guide to everything you need to know about registering in time for the primary. The deadline to register is May 1.

Voters will cast their ballots next month for a host of municipal races, including marquee contests in Philadelphia and Allegheny County, as well as the state’s appellate courts, and a pair of special elections for state House.

“Every Pennsylvania voter who wants to vote using a mail ballot should apply for a no-excuse mail-in or absentee ballot today,” acting Secretary of State Al Schmidt said in a statement. “Voters should allow for as much time as possible when using the postal service to ensure their ballot is received on time.”

Pennsylvania voters can choose from two vote-by-mail options: mail-in or absentee ballot. Below, what you need to know about both options.

(Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Mail-in ballots 

Any registered Pennsylvania voter can request a no-excuse mail-in ballot. Voters can apply for their ballot online or download and print an application from the Department of State’s website, the agency said in its statement.

As of Thursday, 626,509 voters had applied for mail-in ballots ahead of the May 16 municipal primary, Schmidt said.

Absentee ballots 

Voters who will be away from their home municipality on Election Day or who have a disability or illness that prevents them from going to the polls can apply for an absentee ballot online.  

As of Thursday, 44,374 voters have applied for absentee ballots ahead of the May 16 primary, Schmidt said.

Mail ballot applications must be received by a voter’s county elections board by 5 p.m. May 9. 

Upon receiving their mail ballot, voters should: 

  • Fill out the ballot by following the instructions on how to mark selections.
  • Seal the ballot in the inner secrecy envelope marked “official ballot.” Do not make any stray marks on the envelope.
  • Then seal the inner secrecy envelope in the pre-addressed outer return envelope.
  • Sign and put the current date on the voter’s declaration on the outer return envelope.

Under Pennsylvania law, voters are allowed to mail or hand-deliver only their own ballot to their county board of elections.

The only exceptions to this rule are for voters with a disability who have designated someone in writing to deliver their ballot and for voters who need an emergency absentee ballot, according to the Department of State.

County boards of election offices must receive all completed mail ballots – whether they are mail-in or absentee ballots – by 8 p.m. on Election Day, May 16. Mail ballots received after that time, even if postmarked by 8 p.m. May 16, will not count.

More to Know:

Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day for those eligible voters who want to vote in person.

For more information about all voting options, voters can visit or call 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772).


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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.