Pennsylvania voters, know your rights when you go to the polls on Tuesday


In addition to knowing who you will be voting for on Tuesday, you also need to know your rights in the event of a problem at your polling station.

Elections do not always go smoothly. They are run by people, and people make mistakes. The technology doesn’t always work as expected either. Problems sometimes arise with voting machines and poll books.

The possibility of voting by mail instead of voting at the ballot box can also cause misfires. It is important to know your rights so that you know what to do if you run into problems.

The information comes from the Pennsylvania State Department.

Only if you are voting for the first time, or the first time in a new constituency.

Several types of photo ID are acceptable: Pennsylvania driver’s license or PennDOT ID card; any identification issued by a state agency or the US government, including a passport and military ID; Student card; employee ID.

For those who do not have photo ID, several types of non-photo ID are acceptable: a confirmation issued by your county voter registration office; a non-photo ID from the state or federal government; firearm license; current utility bill, bank statement, or paycheck; government check.

First-time registered voters who do not bring ID to their polling station may return with ID or must be offered a provisional ballot.


If you bring your unused mail or absentee ballot to your polling place, including the ballot and all envelopes, you can return it and vote at the polls as usual.

If you do not bring your ballot to the polling station or have not received it, you can vote using a provisional ballot. It will be counted after authorities verify that your mail or absentee ballot has not been returned.

Election officials can call the county election commission to see if you are registered in another precinct. If so, you will be directed to the correct polling station.

If you think you should be on the poll book because you are registered in that riding, you can cast a provisional ballot. It will be counted if the authorities verify that you should have been in the book.

You are allowed to vote one more time in your previous riding, but you must update your address at the polling station.

If half or more of the machines are not working, you have the right to use an emergency ballot. Poll workers should immediately offer ballots in these circumstances. If they don’t, you have to ask for one.

Identity and residence are the only means by which a voter can be challenged at a polling station.

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You can vote by signing an affidavit of contestation and asking a witness who is a registered voter in your riding to vouch for you.

If you do not have a witness, you may vote using a provisional ballot, which will be counted if your identity or residence can be verified later.


You are entitled to assistance, including foreign language or literacy assistance. You can get help from someone as long as it is not your employer, a union representative or the election judge.

Voters do not need to be listed as “authorized assistance” on the poll book to receive assistance. You will be asked to sign a declaration of attendance at the police station, unless the poll book already indicates “authorized attendance”.

Contact your county elections office and the district attorney’s office. You can also call the Pennsylvania Department of State Election Hotline at 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772).

Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or


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