(Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)
If you’re one of the 2.2 million Pennsylvanians who requested to vote by mail-in ballot this year, you don’t have to rely on the postal service to cast it.
State law allows voters to hand-deliver their ballots to county election bureaus – the offices in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties that handle voter registration and administer state, local and federal elections.
But voters have other options for the first time this year. Thanks to a 2019 change to the state Election Code, some counties have established satellite voting offices or secure drop box locations to collect ballots and administer voter services.
If you’re hand-delivering your ballot, you have a hard and fast deadline of Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. The state Supreme Court has ordered counties to tally ballots that arrive by mail up until Nov. 6 (the matter is currently being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.) But those late arrivals will only count if they’re postmarked by Nov. 3 – a ballot that’s hand-delivered to the election office on Nov. 4 will get tossed out.
The Capital-Star compiled this map of locations where voters can hand-deliver their mail-in ballots on or before Election Day. It includes three types of locations, color-coded by type:
- County election offices: the all-purpose offices that handle voter registration and election administration in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties throughout the year. You can also go to your county office to request a mail-in ballot if you haven’t done so already (you can also do so online – you have until Oct. 27.)
- Satellite voting offices: these pop-up offices offer many of the same administrative services as normal election offices. They’re typically open on the weekends, often in community spaces that are convenient to voters. The exact services and hours will vary by site (we recommend checking the links in our map for exact details) but most will let you register to vote, request a mail-in ballot on demand, or deliver a mail-in ballot you’ve already completed.
- Secure drop boxes: A handful of counties are collecting ballots in secure drop boxes. Some of these receptacles are open 24 hours a day; others only operate under the supervision of a paid county employee. We recommend checking the link we provided for each location to find out the rules.
This map may change if counties approve more ballot collection sites in the coming weeks before the election. If we missed a location, or if you want to ask us a question about mail-in voting, please get in touch with us using this form.
With that, here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare to vote.
Check the hours of operation
Most county election offices will accept ballots during standard business hours (those tend to be 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. for public offices.) Satellite offices have more irregular schedules, often operating on the weekends. We recommend checking the hours on the county elections website so you can plan your ballot delivery. We’ve included links for each of the locations on the map.
Plan to deliver your ballot yourself
State law requires you to deliver your own ballot – you can’t allow your spouse, partner or neighbor to do it on your own behalf.
Only submit your ballot to the county where you are registered to vote.
Let’s say you live on the eastern side of Lancaster County, a 30-minute drive from the county’s only ballot drop box in the city of Lancaster. If you want to hand deliver your ballot, you’re going to have to make the trip. You can’t take it to the secure drop boxes or satellite offices in neighboring Montgomery County, even though they may be closer to your home. You must submit it to the county where you are registered to vote.
Don’t take your ballot to your polling place.
Your ballot will only be counted if you hand-deliver it to your election office before 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. Polling places don’t count.
Sign, seal and then deliver.
Be sure that you’ve followed all the instructions for completing your mail-in ballot. That includes signing the voter declaration form and sealing your ballot in two envelopes – the secrecy envelope and the mailing envelope – before you hand it over to an election official.
Election officials are urging voters to cast mail-in ballots early – but it doesn’t mean they’ll be counted sooner.
State law currently prohibits county election offices from opening mail-in ballots until 7 a.m on Election Day. That may change if the General Assembly gives them more time to process ballots for tallying – a stage known as pre-canvassing. If they don’t, election officials say that results will be delayed on Election night as they count votes.
Election officials still say that Pennsylvanians can reduce delays in the postal service by delivering ballots by hand. If ballots start arriving early and then the Legislature changes the pre-canvassing deadline, they may be able to work faster.
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