Can I deliver a ballot on behalf of someone with disabilities? Does my voter registration limit my choices? | Election Mailbag

By: - October 9, 2020 7:20 am

(Capital-Star file)

Welcome back to the Capital-Star’s Election Mailbag: our weekly round-up of voting questions, crowdsourced from you – our readers. 

We’re now less than a month away from the Nov. 3 general election, but there’s still time to register to vote or to request an absentee or mail-in ballot. We walk you through those steps in our guide to voting in the 2020 ElectionIf you’re curious about the races you see on your ballot, we’ve got you covered in this guide to candidates and issues.

Still have a question about casting your ballot? We invite you to submit it here – one of our reporters will find you an answer.

With that, here are the inquiries we fielded this week.

My mom is disabled and in a nursing home in Westmoreland County. She will be voting absentee. She obviously cannot hand deliver her own ballot to a dropbox or the election office. I have power of attorney for her, and I am her legal representative in all matters. Can I deliver her ballot to the election office or dropbox for her?

Pennsylvania law typically requires voters to either send their mail-in or absentee ballots by post, or to deliver ballots themselves to a county-run drop off site. But when we posed this question to Disability Rights of Pennsylvania, a public interest law center that’s compiled resources for voters with disabilities, they welcomed urged readers facing similar scenarios to contact their attorneys through their election hotline to learn about their options: 800-692-7443.

Where’s my mail-in ballot?  I haven’t received it, but was told it would be mailed out mid- September …

Ballots have already arrived in some counties and should arrive any day now in others. The best way to check the status of your ballot is to call your local election office and ask when they plan to send them to voters.

What accounts for the variability? Elections in Pennsylvania are locally administered. State law dictates when Pennsylvania’s 67 county election offices can start mailing ballots (this year, the date was Sept. 14), but each county must design, print, and package ballots ahead of mailing.

Ballot mailing was also delayed statewide while the Pennsylvania Supreme Court resolved a lawsuit, filed by Democratic activists, that sought to get the Green Party’s presidential candidate tossed from the ballot. The court ultimately sided with the Democrats in mid-September, clearing the way for counties to mail out ballots. But the dispute did cause delays as counties redesigned and reprinted ballots before mailing them. 

We are moving (in-state and the same county) before Nov. 3. Do we need to order new ballots from our future address, or should we fill out the ballots for the current address and mail them in/drop them off?

Even if you’re only moving across the county, a new address can land you in a different legislative or congressional district. At the very least, it probably means you’ll have a new polling place. That’s why you must update your voter registration if your residence changes. The Department of State has instructions for how to do that online, by mail or in person at your county election office.

If you move within 30 days before Nov. 3, your polling place for this election won’t change. If you’ve already requested a mail-in ballot from your old address, contact your county election office to ensure it’s sent to the correct place.

If you moved out of your previous county, you also need to update your registration and request to maintain your permanent mail-in ballot status or have your existing mail-in application transferred.   

Note that Oct. 19 is the deadline to update your voter registration before the Nov. 3 election.

Can I open carry into a voting precinct? Concealed carry? I have a permit.

Yes, state law allows Pennsylvania voters to carry their firearms into most polling places. But there are some limitations. 

First, firearms are prohibited in schools and courthouses – two venues frequently used as polling sites. The Pennsylvania Department of State recommended in 2016 that counties enforce the firearm prohibition in those polling places, especially in schools where children are present. 

Second, state law also outlaws voter intimidation. That means that you could get into trouble if you flaunt your firearm at a polling place, or behave aggressively in a way that might be perceived as intimidating. 

If I’m registered as a Republican, can I vote Democrat in the presidential election in Pa.?

Your party registration does not affect the choices on your General Election ballot. Registered Republicans can vote for Democrats, and vice versa. 

Will we be able to drop off completed ballots at our polling places as we could during the primary?

No! Mail-in and absentee ballots must go to your county election office, or to a secure drop box or satellite office your county has set up. Election workers at polling places cannot accept mail-in ballots or deliver yours to the election bureau.

Where can I deliver my mail-in ballot?

We fielded a few questions about where voters can drop off mail-in ballots. We’ve compiled this map of ballot delivery sites, which we’ll update as more counties authorize satellite election offices and secure drop boxes. This guide has more instructions for delivering your ballot yourself.

Is our map missing a delivery site? Please let us know by emailing reporter Elizabeth Hardison: [email protected].

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.