Shapiro Administration Urges Voters to Know Their Rights at the Polls

Harrisburg, PA – Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt today encouraged registered Pennsylvania voters to educate themselves about their rights before they vote in person on May 16. Ensuring that our elections are conducted freely and fairly, and that every eligible voter can make their voice heard, are top priorities of the Shapiro Administration.

"All Pennsylvania voters can find a wealth of information about their rights on our website," Schmidt said. "Every voter should be well informed about how to exercise their right to vote."

Here are some important tips regarding voter rights in Pennsylvania:

  • Only first-time voters, or those voting for the first time in a new precinct, must show ID. Acceptable ID includes both photo and non-photo ID. Registered first-time voters who do not bring ID to the polls can return with identification or must be offered a provisional ballot.
  • Voters who applied for and received a mail ballot and then decide they want to vote at the polls must bring their mail ballot, including the outer return envelope, with them to be voided.
  • If a voter applied for a mail ballot but did not return it and no longer has the mail ballot and outer envelope, they may vote by provisional ballot at their polling place on Primary Day. Their county board of elections will then make a determination as to whether their provisional ballot can be counted.
  • If a voter applied for a mail ballot but never received it, they should vote by provisional ballot at the polls in the primary. Their county board of elections will then make a determination as to whether their provisional ballot can be counted.
  • If a voter's name is not in the poll book, poll workers can call the county board of elections to see if the voter is registered in another precinct in the county. Registered voters who are in the wrong polling place should go to the correct polling place to vote, but a voter who believes they are registered in that precinct and should be listed in the poll book is entitled to cast a provisional ballot there.
  • Voters who moved within Pennsylvania but did not update their address in time before the election may vote one more time in their previous precinct, but they must update their address at the polling place.
  • If a voter is challenged based on their identity or residency, the voter may vote normally by signing a challenge affidavit and producing a witness who is also a registered voter in the precinct to vouch for them. If the voter cannot or does not want to produce a witness, the voter may cast a provisional ballot. Identity and residency are the only bases for challenging a voter at a polling place. 
  • Voters have the right to assistance at the polling place, including foreign language or literacy assistance. A voter may select any person to assist as long as the person is not their employer, their union representative, or the Judge of Elections. Voters do not need to be designated as "assistance permitted" in the poll book to receive help. A person who wants assistance will be asked to sign an Assistance Declaration at the precinct unless the poll book already indicates "assistance permitted."
  • Voters have the right to refuse assistance.
  • Voters have the right to vote without being subjected to intimidation, harassment, or discriminatory conduct. A voter who experiences intimidation should report it to the Judge of Elections, their county board of elections, their county district attorney's office, or the Department of State's year-round voter hotline at 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772). 

Schmidt also reminded Pennsylvanians who are voting by mail-in or absentee ballot to return their completed ballot immediately, by delivering it in person to their county election board or, if their county provides one, a ballot drop-box location.

The deadline for county election boards to receive completed mail ballots is 8 p.m. May 16. A postmark by that time does not count. Schmidt reminded voters who are returning completed mail ballots to sign and write the current date on the outer envelope to ensure their vote can be counted.

The Department of State website at can help voters with election-related questions and information, including:

For more information on voting in Pennsylvania, follow #ReadyToVotePA on social media.

Media Contacts

Matt Heckel

Press Secretary
Department of State Media