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Photo by Timothy Rezendes via Creative Commons

The pocket guide to the 2016 general election in Philadelphia

You’re gonna want to bookmark this one.

For every election, we put out a “pocket guide” — a tool for Philadelphia voters to reference when they hit the polls. But this year more than ever, it’s essential.

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has pushed campaign rhetoric for months implying that the election could be rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton, specifically here in Philadelphia. That means this year, we’re dealing with threats of hostile poll watchers on top of concerns about voter fraud and accusations of ballot-fixing. City leaders have said that Election Day is under control, and their Election Fraud Task Force will be available to field concerns, complaints and questions throughout election day.

But some of those questions can be answered with the below guide that includes information about where to go, what to bring, how to operate the machines and what to do if you encounter trouble. Bookmark this on your phone and reference it at the polls.

(Big thanks to the Committee of Seventy for regularly partnering with Billy Penn to create this guide.)

Where to go

To find your polling place online or check your voter registration record, visit www.seventy.org and click on “Find Your Polling Place.” You can also find your polling location information at www.pavoterservices.state.pa.us or www.votespa.com. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

What to bring

Yourself. You do not need photo ID in order to vote… unless you’re a first-time voter in a new division. First-time voters, or voters who are showing up to a polling place for the first time, can present:

Approved photo IDs

  • PA Driver’s License
  • ID Issued by PennDOT for Voting
  • U.S. Government ID or Commonwealth Agency ID
  • U.S. Passport
  • U.S. Armed Forces ID
  • Student ID
  • Employee ID

Approved non-photo IDs

  • Voter Registration Card (paper card issued by Voter Registration Office)
  • U.S. Government ID or Commonwealth Agency ID
  • Firearm Permit
  • Current utility bill, bank statement or paycheck
  • Government check

What’s on the ballot

Click here to check out what your ballot will look like and read our procrastinator’s guide for information on the candidates.

Ballot question

In addition to the candidates you can selected, there will also be a ballot question. And it’s a complicated one. Here’s what the question will ask:

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices of the Supreme Court, judges, and magisterial district judges be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years?    

There’s a big catch with that question: It doesn’t tell the voter there already *is* a mandatory retirement age for judges in Pennsylvania, and it’s 70. Read this explainer for background on the ballot question and why it’s become a partisan battle in Harrisburg.

Election FAQ

What happens if I get to the polling place and my name isn’t in the poll book, but I know I registered?

First, check your voter registration status from your phone and make sure you’re at the right polling place. You can do that at www.pavoterservices.state.pa.us. If you’re showing up as a registered voter and you’re at the right polling place, you should then ask the Judge of Elections at the location if you’re in the “supplemental poll book pages.”

If that doesn’t work, you should then ask the volunteer to call the county Voter Registration Office to check and see if you’re in the voter database. If all else fails and you know you’re registered but your name isn’t coming up, ask for a provisional ballot.

Campaigns can hand out literature and hang up posters outside of polling places provided that they are more than 10 feet away from the entrance to the voting room. All flyers and posters must list the organization that funded their printing.

Provisional ballots are paper ballots used to ensure that registered voters are not denied the right to vote. The ballots are then counted once you’re verified as someone who registered.

What if I recently moved? What do I need to know?

Anyone who is registered to vote at a certain polling place is entitled to vote there, even if they’ve recently moved out of that division.

What if they ask me to vote by provisional ballot?

Voting by a paper ballot is acceptable when:

  • A voter’s name is not in the poll book or the supplemental poll book pages.
  • A first-time voter or voter voting for the first time in a new division is unable to produce one of the forms of identification specified by state law.
  • A polling place official asserts that an individual is ineligible to vote at that polling place.
  • Half or more of the voting machines at a polling place are not working.

If I already voted by absentee ballot, can I still vote in person?

If you thought you were not going to be able to vote at home, but it turns out that you can, the Judge of Elections will note on the appropriate form that you appeared to vote in person. You will sign in and vote as if you had not requested and submitted an absentee ballot. When the absentee ballots are counted at the Board of Elections’ office, your unopened absentee ballot is marked void and does not count.

Note: Campaigners and partisan literature are not allowed inside the room where the voting machines are located or within 10 feet of the entrance.

How to work the machines

How do I select a candidate or answer a question?

Press the number in the box next to the candidate or response of your choice. A red light will turn on next to the numbered box you pressed, indicating your choice. To change a selection, press the same button next to your original choice again and the light will go out.  Then, make a new selection.

If I press the VOTE button before I complete all my selections, can I finish?

No. Once the VOTE button has been pressed, the ballot is cast and no other selections or changes may be made.

How do I cast a write-in vote?

First, press the write-in button on the ballot face by the office for you want to cast a write-in for. Then, press the red square button at the top right of the machine. Write or stamp the name of the write-in candidate in the now open write-in window. Then, close the black shutter on the write-in window when finished.

What are the blinking red lights on the ballot?

Blinking red lights next to offices or ballot questions indicate those for which you are allowed to vote.

How do I cast my ballot?

Make all desired selections on the ballot, and press the green VOTE button located on the lower right hand corner of the ballot box. When the voting booth lights turn off and one bell-chime sounds, your ballot has been recorded.

What do I do if I accidentally leave the polling place without actually casting my vote?

Then you would be called a “fleeing voter,” and this means you basically forgot to press the “vote” button. People who work at the polling location are told to try and come after you, but if you’re too speedy, your votes will be cleared. So basically, make sure you hit that “vote” button.

What to do if you encounter a problem at the polls

If you encounter any problems voting, or someone is bullying or preventing you from voting, call the Election day Fraud Task Force at 215-686-9641, 215-686-9643 or 215-686-9644.

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