Can I wear campaign gear to the polls? What’s a provisional ballot? | Election Mailbag

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Welcome to the first-ever Capital-Star election mailbag 

Each week leading up to the Nov. 3 election, we will take a look at the questions you submitted to us. The answers will be published in a mailbag post each Friday. 

Have an election-related question? You can send it to us here.

Here are two questions from this week’s mailbag: 

Can I wear campaign/candidate paraphernalia to the polls to vote? 

Yes, you can. Pennsylvania state law reads

“No person, when within the polling place, shall electioneer or solicit votes for any political party, political body or candidate, nor shall any written or printed matter be posted up within the said room, except as required by this act.”

State law doesn’t prohibit campaign clothing, but that hasn’t stopped poll workers from asking people to cover it up.

The lack of specificity regarding what constitutes “electioneering,”  has led polling places across the state to ask people to cover the offending garment, such as hats, shirts and buttons in order to place their vote in previous elections.

Poll workers, poll watchers and others performing official election-day duties are still prohibited from wearing clothing or other items with partisan messages at polling places.

I requested a mail-in ballot. Can I change my decision and vote in-person instead? 

If you requested a mail-in ballot, but would like to vote in-person instead, you have the option to vote in-person either via provisional ballot or on the voting machines, depending on the circumstance. 

A provisional ballot records your vote while the county election office determines whether it can be counted, according to the Department of State

In the following situations you have the right to vote with a provisional ballot: 

  • You registered to vote in Pennsylvania and are eligible in the election district, but your name is not in the voter roster and election officials cannot determine your registration status. 
  • You do not have an approved form of identification when you go to vote in an election district for the first time.
  • For a primary election, voters who believe they registered for a particular political party, but the roster shows them registered as a member of another political party. 
  • Someone challenges your eligibility to vote. You may produce a witness to sign an affidavit to affirm your identity and residency. If you produce a witness, you can vote either by paper ballot or on the machines. If you are unable to or choose not to produce a witness, you can vote with a provisional ballot. 

You can also vote by provisional ballot if: 

  • You are voting as a result of a federal or state court order.
  • You are voting as a result of an order that extends the time established for closing the polls.

To vote by machine at your polling place, you will need to surrender your ballot and its envelope to the poll workers to be voided. 

If you do not have your ballot on hand, you can vote via provisional ballot. Once it is determined eligible to be counted, your vote will be tallied, according to Act 12. You can also vote via provisional ballot if you did not receive your mail in ballot on time or any other reason. 

During counting, if it is determined that you returned the mail-in ballot and also filled out a provisional ballot, only the mail-in ballot will be counted. The provisional ballot will not be counted, according to Act 77, the election reform bill signed last year. 

You can check the status of your provisional ballot here.

Cassie Miller
A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.