Election Day: What you need to know

Election Day is Tuesday, November 3. If you need help or have questions at the polls, or witness any voter harassment or intimidation, call the national Election Protection hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683). We are proud to be part of the coalition of organizations across the country staffing this resource for voters, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

  • English: 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)
  • Spanish: 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682)
  • Asian languages: 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683)
  • Arabic: 844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287)

For those planning to vote in person, polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.—if you are in line by 8 p.m., you are allowed to stay in line until you cast your ballot. Find your polling place here.

For those who have requested, but have not yet returned, mail-in ballots, the Pennsylvania Department of State recommends that voters, if possible, should not use the US Postal Service to return their ballot this close to Election Day. Instead voters should deliver their ballots directly to election officials. Voters can do this by taking their ballot to their County election office or, in some counties, a satellite office or drop box. Find where you can return your ballot here.

If you have requested a mail-in ballot, but have not yet received it, you can also visit a County election office to ask for a replacement. Alternatively, you can go to your polling place and vote using a provisional ballot. Once election officials confirm that you haven’t voted by mail, your provisional vote should be counted.

If you have received a mail-in ballot but have changed your mind and wish to vote in person, you must take that ballot—along with the envelopes–to your polling place and sign a document attesting that you have not already voted. By doing this, you trade in your mail-in ballot for an in-person ballot. You have the right to do this, but election officials strongly encourage you not to, because the process can cause delays at the polling place. If you can, return your mail-in ballot to an election office or drop box instead.

Below are some other frequently asked questions:

Will we have final results on election night?

No. Election officials will be working around the clock, starting on Election Day, across the commonwealth to count an unprecedented number of mail-in and absentee ballots. More than 3 million voters have requested mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania, compared to just over 250,000 in 2016. The COVID-19 pandemic and related concerns from voters about in-person voting have driven this demand. This election is also the first in which any Pennsylvania voter could request a mail-in ballot if they choose to do so, without providing an excuse. Previously, only voters in a particular set of circumstances could apply for an absentee ballot. This change was part of Act 77, a bipartisan election reform law passed in 2019.

Why are election officials only starting to count mail-in ballots on Election Day?

Due to inaction from the Pennsylvania State Legislature, county election officials are prohibited from starting the process of counting mail-in ballots until polls open on Election Day. In most other states, this process, called pre-canvassing—opening envelopes and sorting ballots, among other tasks—begins ahead of Election Day. This delay pushes back the start of the counting process for mail-in ballots, and it is extremely unlikely that the process will be completed on election night. We urge voters to remain patient with election officials who will be working tirelessly to conduct the election and deliver results.

What is the deadline for counties to receive my mail-in ballot?

On September 17, 2020 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to extend the deadline for county election offices to receive ballots from 8:00 PM on Election Day (November 3) until 5:00 PM on Friday, November 6, so long as the voter mails the ballot by 8:00 PM on Election Day. We filed an extensive amicus brief in the case.

However, political actors have asked the United States Supreme Court to hold that ruling unconstitutional.  The Court decided that it wouldn’t decide this case before Election Day.  But there is a chance that the Court will decide the case after Election Day and there is a chance the Court will agree that the extension was unconstitutional.

The bottom line is: don’t count on an extension of the deadline.  Make sure your ballot is received by 8 P.M. Election Day.  This means voters should deliver their ballots to their county election offices, satellite offices or drop boxes.

What should I do if I am notified that my mail-in ballot was cancelled?

Don’t panic! Even if you receive a notification that your returned mail-in ballot was cancelled—for example, because it lacked a signature or a secrecy envelope—you can still make your voice heard, but you must take action before polls close on Election Day.

Your first option is to visit a county election office or satellite election office and request a replacement ballot, returning it at that location and making sure that you follow the instructions carefully. Ask for help from election officials if you have questions. Find your local election office here.


Go to your polling place and ask to cast a provisional ballot. This will be counted once election officials confirm that your mail-in ballot was cancelled.

What are “naked ballots”? What should I keep in mind to make sure my vote is counted when using a mail-in ballot?

“Naked ballots” are mail-in ballots that are returned without an inner “secrecy envelope”—a white envelope included along with the ballot and the outer mailing envelope. Pennsylvania Election Law requires people voting by mail to put their ballots in a “secrecy envelope,” and then put that sealed envelope in a second, outer mailing envelope. Any ballot that is submitted without a secrecy envelope will not be counted.

You, and your family and friends, must be especially careful when you are completing and returning your mail-in ballot to make sure you seal your ballot inside the inner secrecy envelope before placing it in the outer mailing envelope. Read the instructions carefully! It can be helpful to check with a family member or friend to double-check that you have completed all of the required steps to complete your ballot. Mail-in ballots can also be rejected because a voter forgot to sign in the appropriate location on the declaration envelope. Be sure to sign your outer envelope before returning your ballot!

Can my ballot be rejected because of a signature mismatch?

No: In a unanimous decision on October 23, the PA Supreme Court ruled that mail-in ballots can’t be discarded solely because of a perceived discrepancy between the signature on the mail-in ballot declaration envelope and the voter’s registration.

Be sure to carefully sign the outer declaration envelope in the appropriate place before returning your mail in ballot. Rest assured that your ballot will not be discarded simply because your signature may have changed over time, or because an untrained partisan observer or election official perceives a mismatch with your voter registration signature.