Originally published May 2018; updated Nov. 2019

Maybe this is your first time voting in the commonwealth, or maybe you’re an old pro who likes to be extra prepared. Either way, we have you covered with the basics of what you need to know — before you vote, on Election Day itself, and afterwards.


This information comes from the Pa. Department of State. Did we miss a question you have? Tell us.

Before you vote

How do I know if I’m registered to vote?

You can find your voter status here.

My status says “inactive.” Can I still vote?

You can. You’ll be asked to sign an affirmation that you live at the address connected with your registration at your polling place before you vote.

I’m an independent/unaffiliated with any major party. Can I vote?

Yes, any registered voter can cast a ballot during general elections. It’s only during party primaries that unaffiliated voters cannot participate.

I’m not registered to vote. Can I register on Election Day?

No. Pennsylvania does not have same-day registration or voting. The deadline to register was Oct. 7.

I was convicted of a felony. Can I vote?

If you’ve completed your prison sentence, yes. Of course, you do need to be registered.

How do I find my polling place?

Type your address into this tool from the Pa. Department of State. You can also try looking it up via an app by Think Company that lets you just scan in your driver’s license.

How do I know if my polling place is accessible for wheelchairs?

Accessible polling places are shown with a wheelchair sign in this tool from DOS. Here are the standards these places must meet.

If your polling place is inaccessible, and you’re 65 or older or have a disability, you can vote by alternative ballot.

Where do I find a sample ballot?

Some counties, like Allegheny and Philadelphia, publish sample ballots on their respective election websites. If your county doesn’t provide online sample ballots, you can use tools from the non-partisan League of Women Voters or Ballotpedia.

Who are these people?

You can find out more about the candidates by reading our Procrastinator’s Guide to the election.

I lost my voter registration card. What do I do?

Don’t panic. You don’t need it to vote.

I don’t live at the address on my driver’s license. What do I do?

It depends. Did you move before Oct. 9 (the deadline to change your registration) and inform the state of your new address? If yes, go to your new polling place. If not, head to your old one. You’re allowed to vote at an old polling location for one election.

Do I need my ID to vote?

As a general rule, no, you do not need ID to vote. However, you do need it if you’re voting at a new polling place or for the first time. Approved forms of ID include:

  • Pennsylvania driver’s license or PennDOT ID card
  • ID issued by any Commonwealth agency
  • ID issued by the U.S. Government
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. Armed Forces ID
  • Student ID
  • Employee ID
  • Confirmation issued by the County Voter Registration Office
  • Non-photo ID issued by the Commonwealth
  • Non-photo ID issued by the U.S. Government
  • Firearm permit
  • Current utility bill
  • Current bank statement
  • Current paycheck
  • Government check

You also need a driver’s license number, the last four digits of your Social Security number, or “an acceptable photo ID” to apply for an absentee ballot unless you’re 65 or older, have a disability, or live overseas. Forms of acceptable photo ID include:

  • U.S. Passport
  • U.S. Military ID (active duty and retired military ID may designate an expiration date that is indefinite). Military dependents’ ID must contain a current expiration date.
  • Employee photo ID issued by Federal, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania County, or Pennsylvania Municipal government.
  • Photo ID issued by an accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning.
  • Photo ID issued by a Pennsylvania care facility, including long-term care facilities, assisted living residences and personal care homes.

On Nov. 5

When can I vote?

Polls will be open across Pennsylvania from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 5.

What happens if I’m still in line at 8 p.m.?

Stay there. You are entitled to vote if you’re in line by 8 p.m.

Who are the poll workers? Are they partisan?

Nope. While it’s likely anyone who becomes a poll worker does have political opinions, the position is non-partisan. Some poll workers — the Judge of Elections, Majority Inspector, and Minority Inspector -are elected every four years during municipal elections, aka the odd-year ones, or appointed if there’s a vacancy. If you’re interested in becoming a poll worker, contact your county elections office.

Don’t confuse poll workers, who help you vote, with poll watchers, “registered voters in the county who have been appointed by a party or candidate to observe at the precinct,” according to DOS. “One poll watcher per party and one poll watcher per candidate may be inside at any given time. Watchers must remain at least 6 feet away from the area where voting is occurring.”

Where can campaigners stand?

From DOS: “Any other person or voter not in the process of voting, campaign workers, signs and all other electioneering material must be located at least 10 feet away from the entrance to the room where voting occurs.”

Who do I call if I see campaigners violating this rule, or if I see any other violation of election law at the polls?

If you see something that needs to be addressed immediately, call DOS’ voting hotline: 1-877-VOTESPA or 1-877-868-3772. You can also request an investigation by filling out this form.

What are legitimate reasons I could be turned away from the polls? What do I do if the poll workers turn me away?

There are two reasons your right to vote can be challenged: questions over identity or residency.

The head poll worker, called a Judge of Election, “has the obligation to determine if a challenge rests on a good faith basis,” according to DOS. “If the Judge of Election is satisfied as to the identity and residency of the voter and believes that the challenge does not have a good faith basis, the voter should be permitted to vote normally.”

If the Judge of Election is unable to do that, the voter is allowed to “bring another voter from the precinct to sign an affidavit vouching for the challenged voter’s identity or residence.” If the voter is unable to do that, they must be given a provisional ballot, a paper alternative that’s sealed in an envelope and given to the county election office to determine if you’re really eligible to vote.

What do I do if I’m not in the voter books?

Again, ask for a provisional ballot. You’ll be able to find out if your ballot was counted seven days after the election by searching here. Make sure to write down your ballot ID number.

Can I take a selfie in the voting booth?

You can take a selfie with your ballot, but must wait to share it until after you leave your polling place.

Can I bring a notebook with my notes on candidates into the voting booth?

Yes. You can also bring in campaign literature. Just remember to take it with you when you’re done.

Can I bring my cell phone into the voting booth to look things up?

Yes. From DOS: “Although the Election Code does not address the use of electronic devices in the polling place, the Department recommends that counties adopt common sense rules that take into account the need for order in the polling place and the right of citizens to vote unimpeded.”

Can I bring my kids into the voting booth?

Kids, no. Kid, yes. Voters are allowed to bring one child under 18 into the voting booth.

Do I have to vote for everything on the ballot?


What if I or a family member has a medical emergency on Election Day and we can’t get to the polls?

You still may be able to cast a ballot. The process for a last-minute emergency absentee ballot involves either you or someone you designate going to the Court of Common Pleas in your county to submit an application. Your application must be submitted before 8 p.m. on Election Day.

After you vote

I own a business. Can I give away freebies to voters?

Just to voters? No. Under federal law, it’s illegal to give away any goods in exchange for a vote. It doesn’t matter if it’s non-partisan.

Where do I find election results?

If you’re looking for results straight from the DOS, right here.

Sarah Anne Hughes is based in Harrisburg for The Incline and Billy Penn as the sites’ first-ever state capitol reporter and is a 2018 corps member for Report for America, a new initiative that seeks...