Voting is easy – as long as you have your electoral ducks in a row. As a service to our clients and community, MFHS created a step-by-step guide that centralizes all the forms, tools and resources needed to cast an informed ballot this November.
If you’ll be 18 years of age on or before November 6, 2012, you are eligible to vote – as long as you take a few minutes prior to the election to fill out the required forms and gather the required documents. But don’t wait too long: Pennsylvania’s voting laws simply do not allow for procrastination. You need to start the process now and, at the very least, you must complete Step One by October 9.
Your vote matters. Following the step-by-step guide below will ensure that it counts, too.
Step One: Register to Vote
In order to vote, your first must register – and register at least 30 days before the election in which you wish to vote. That means if you want to vote in the General Election on November 6, 2012, you must be registered on or before October 9, 2012. Voter registration allows the government to prevent voter fraud by ensuring that everyone who votes is legally eligible to do so, votes in the correct location and votes only once. You do not need to register for every election, but you do have to register (or re-register) if:
- You have never voted before
- You have moved and changed your permanent address since the last time you voted
- You want to change your party affiliation (eg. Democratic, Republican)
In order to register in Pennsylvania, you must:
- Be a citizen of the United States at least one month before the next election
- Be a resident of Pennsylvania and your election district at least 30 days before the next election
- Be at least 18 years of age on the day of the next election
You can register to vote in person or by mail through the Department of State by clicking here. If you choose to register by mail, remember you must print, fill out, sign and send the Voter Registration Form. If you are unable to print a form, call 1-800-552-VOTE to have a one sent to you.
The Voter Registration Form will ask you to choose a party affiliation (Democratic, Republican). Choosing a party affiliation allows you to vote in that party’s Primary Election. Pennsylvania’s Primary Elections are held in April.
If you are not sure if you are registered to vote, you can check online, on phone or in person through the Pennsylvania Department of State by clicking here.
If you have recently moved, recently changed your name, or have multiple addresses, the Department of State’s lists of frequently asked questions (FAQs) can be accessed here. Look for the drop down menu in the red box that reads “I AM.”
Step Two: Get a Valid Photo ID
You must bring a photo ID to vote in the November election. Click here for a list of the acceptable forms of ID.
If you do not have a Pennsylvania Photo ID, you can obtain one for free at Driver’s License Centers through the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles. To find a Driver’s License Center near you, click here. Note that you must have a Social Security card and an additional form of ID (like a birth certificate) to obtain a Pennsylvania Photo ID. More information on obtaining a free photo ID for voting can be found here.
Voters who do not have verification documents necessary to get a Pennsylvania Photo ID will be able to obtain a new Department of State voter identification card for free at any PennDOT Driver License Center. The Department of State Photo ID card is valid for voting purposes only and is intended ONLY for those individuals who cannot produce proper documentation for other types of photo identification. Voters who want the new Department of State Voter ID must provide their name, address, Social Security number, proof of residency and previous name and/or address if changed in the past 12 months.
Step Three: Find Your Polling Place
You can vote only at your designated polling place. The League of Women Voter’s has an easy-to-use tool to find your polling place. You find it here.
Step Four: Vote
Save the date! Election Day is November 6, 2012. Your vote matters!
Absentee Ballots: If you are not able to get to your polling place on November 6, you can apply for an absentee ballot by October 30. Completed absentee ballots are due in county election offices no later than November 2. Click here to learn more voting by absentee ballot.
Don’t know who to vote for? Non-partisan websites like Project Vote Smart and MTV’s Power of 12 allow you to explore the 2012 presidential candidates’ political beliefs and voting records. With Project Vote Smart’s VoteEasy, you can see what candidates best reflect your own political beliefs by answering a few short questions.