Frequently Asked Questions

Mail-In/Absentee Ballots

I applied for a mail-in ballot but did not receive it. What are my options now?

Ballots for the November General Election have all been sent out. If you have not received yours, please email electionscontact@alleghenycounty.us, or consider coming to the County Office Building to have your ballot reissued to you.
Verify that you have applied for and been approved for your ballot using the ballot tracker tool.

May I return my mail-in or absentee ballot to the Elections office?

Voters may take their voted ballots to the lobby of the County Office Building, 542 Forbes Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, during regular business hours of 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. The Division is also offering extended days and hours to make ballot return more convenient.

As a reminder, voters may only return their own ballot pursuant to state law. County staff will also look at the declaration envelope to ensure that the voter has signed and dated it.

If a person wants to have someone else deliver his or her ballot in person, is there some kind of affidavit form that the voter can use to authorize someone else to drop off his or her ballot?

No. The only time that a voter can have someone else deliver his or her ballot is in an emergency situation (such as an unexpected illness or disability and last-minute absence) or if a person has a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Details on emergency ballots and the authorized representative form are available on the state’s website.

How long do I have to return my mail-in or absentee ballot?

Ballots must be received by the Elections Division by 8 pm on Election Day in order to be counted. They cannot be return to the polling place.

Is my mail-in or absentee ballot date and time stamped when it is received by Elections?

The outer (declaration) envelope is date and time stamped when it is received at the Elections Warehouse. Additionally, when the voted ballot is received, that bar code on the envelope is scanned and the system immediately updated to reflect that the ballot has been returned.

If there is no bar code on the envelope, elections staff will manually pull the voter’s record and enter the ballot as being received.

How can I check on whether I have applied for a ballot, or if it has been sent?

The online ballot tracker can provide you with that information. If your status is pending, an application has been approved, but the ballot has not yet been sent. When the status changes, we recommend that you give the post office a week to get the ballot to you for use. If you have not received it at that point, contact the Elections Division for assistance. You may also go to the Elections Division to have your ballot reissued to you at the counter (hours are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday).

Where is my polling place?

You can use the polling place locator to find your polling place by using your home address. Please note that the polling place locator uses your mailing address - and not your municipality.

Voters whose polling places have moved will receive written notice of the change prior to election day advising them of the new location. There will also be postings on the old location redirecting voters to the correct site.

Can I return my voted ballot to my polling place?

No. By state law, completed ballots may not be dropped off at the polling place. They must be received by the Elections Division by 8 pm on Election Day to be counted.

What is the last date I can mail my ballot so that it’s counted?

We cannot answer that question as we do not control the US Mail. We have suggested that everyone mail their ballot back as quickly as possible and have offered ballot return at the County Elections Office.

Where can I return my ballot if I don’t want to mail it?

Voters may take their voted ballots to the lobby of the County Office Building, 542 Forbes Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, during regular business hours of 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Prior to the municipal election, the division offers extended days and hours to make ballot return more convenient.

As a reminder, voters may only return their own ballot pursuant to state law. County staff will also look at the declaration envelope to ensure that the voter has signed and dated it.

How can I track my ballot to see if it’s been received and recorded?

The state website has a ballot tracker application. If you applied online, and provided an email address, you will also receive an email update on the status of your ballot.

I checked the status of my ballot and it says pending. What do I need to do to change it?

A pending status simply means that your ballot hasn’t yet been mailed. The ballot tracker will tell you when the ballot has been mailed and when it is received. The status will then change to “vote recorded.”

What do I do if I send my ballot in, but it’s not showing as received and recorded by Election Day?

If your ballot is not showing as received or recorded, we encourage you to first contact the Elections Office to verify that information. If you verify that it has not been received, you can go to the polling place and ask to vote by a provisional ballot. Once voted, the ballot would be turned in to a poll worker. It will be returned to Elections and reviewed as part of the Return Board process. They will verify that the ballot was not cast any other way and, if not, will then open and count the provisional ballot during that process.

Is there anything specific that voters should do to ensure that their ballot is counted?

In order to have your ballot validated, the instructions that accompany the ballot must be followed carefully. The declaration envelope must be signed and dated correctly and completely. Your ballot must be placed in the security envelope and sealed – and the security envelope must remain unmarked. You will need to place a stamp on the envelope as well - a first class stamp will work even though the envelope is large.

Can I pick up my mail-in ballot in person?

Ballots are distributed on a daily basis. If you have applied for a mail-in ballot, and it has been 7 days since it was sent according to the ballot tracker, you can go to the Elections Division counter and ask that it be reissued to you.

If you have not yet applied, the deadline has now passed. Visit the Emergency Absentee Ballot page to determine if you're eligible. All ballots must be received by the Elections Division by 8 pm on Election Day.

When can I go to the Elections Division to apply over the counter for my mail-in or absentee ballot?

If you have not yet applied for a mail-in or absentee ballot, the deadline has now passed.

Will you be able to verify that my vote was counted?

We will only be able to inform you that your ballot was not counted. Pennsylvania is a secret ballot state. Once your declaration envelopes is reviewed and the secrecy envelope separated from it, the Elections staff does not know to whom the ballot belongs. 

I already voted and returned my ballot, but I want to change who I voted for – how do I do that?

You can’t change your vote once you have submitted your ballot, just like you cannot reenter the polling place to vote again.

My ballot was mailed according to the online ballot tracker. I’ve not received it yet. Can you track it and tell me where it is?

No. Once delivered to the post office for mailing, we are unable to track your ballot.

How are mail-in and absentee ballots secured once they are turned in?

All ballots returned in person are secured in the Elections Office before being transported to the Elections warehouse. Ballots returned by mail are delivered directly to the Elections warehouse. Once ballots are marked as returned, they are secured under lock and key in a room which is also under camera. They remain there until 7 am on Election Day at which time they are brought out with witnesses, opened, and the process begun to count them.

Election Day

Can a voter bring a completed absentee or vote-by-mail ballot to his or her polling location in person, on Election Day?

No. A mail-in or absentee ballot may only be returned to the Elections Division.

What protections are in place to prevent a person from voting by mail-in or absentee ballot and then voting at the polls?

When a person has applied – regardless of whether a ballot is returned – their voter record notes that a mail-in or absentee ballot was requested. If that person goes to their polling place, that will be noted next to their name in the poll book. They either need to bring the ballot with them, including envelope, and have it spoiled by the poll workers to vote, or they will be asked to vote a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot is not counted on Election Day. Instead, it is returned to the Elections Division and as part of the Return Board process, each would be reviewed to ensure that the individual had not voted by mail-in or absentee ballot, or at the polling place. If no other ballot had been cast by the voter, that ballot would then be opened and counted.

I applied for a mail-in/absentee ballot, but I would rather go to the poll now. I’ve already received my ballot. What are my options?

If you receive your ballot and decide to go to the polling place instead, you should take the entire packet with you and let the poll worker know that you would like to surrender your ballot and vote in person instead. They will take the packet and secure it in an envelope to record that action, ask that you sign a form confirming that choice, and then you can vote as you would any other time.

If you receive your ballot, but misplace it or parts of it, you can still go to the polling place, but you will be asked to vote by provisional ballot. You would not scan your ballot in but would instead provide it to the poll workers when done. It will be returned to Elections and reviewed as part of the Return Board process. They will verify that the ballot was not cast any other way and, if not, will then open and count the provisional ballot during that process.

Will we be voting on machines again for this election?

No. Pursuant to a Court settlement requiring voter verified ballots, the interim Board of Elections selected paper ballots and precinct-level scanners as the county’s election systems. For those who are unable to complete a paper ballot, there is a ballot marking device (BMD) with a screen, much like the old voting machines which prints out a paper ballot with the voter’s choices. Both the paper ballot and the ballot created by the BMD are fed into a scanner by the voter to have their selections counted.

The instructions say that if I have a mail in ballot, but I decide to vote in person instead, that I need to bring my ballot to the polling place so it can be "spoiled". What does that mean?

A poll worker will write “spoiled” or “surrendered” on the ballot or some other word to indicate that it is no longer a valid ballot. The ballot and the declaration envelope will be placed with materials to be returned to the Elections Division where it will be retained. The voter will also be asked to sign a form confirming that they wish to surrender their mail-in ballot and vote in person, and that they have not previously voted in this election.

My voter registration status show that I’m an inactive voter. Can I still vote?

Yes, but you will be asked to sign a form that affirms that you still meet all of the criteria to be a registered elector.

I’m a newly-registered voter. I have not received my voter registration card. Can I still vote?

Yes. A first-time voter will be asked to show ID, but there is a large list of other forms of identification that can be used besides a voter registration card. A full list is available on the Vote PA website.

I’m a first-time voter. Will I need to do anything special?

A first-time voter will be noted as such in the poll book and will be asked to show ID. A full list of acceptable forms of ID is available on the Vote PA website.

General Questions

There are some people at my poll who say they are poll watchers. What does that mean?

Poll watchers are individuals who are appointed by a candidate or party, and credentialed by the county, who watch operations at a polling place. By state law, the person must be a qualified, registered elector of the county. Watchers are permitted to keep a list of voters and may challenge an elector’s identity, residence, or qualifications to be an eligible voter.

I want to be a poll watcher. What do I need to do?

Poll watchers are appointed by a candidate or party, so if you are interested in being one, you should contact the candidate or party on behalf of which you would like to serve.

What is an authorized representative?

An authorized representative is an individual designated by a candidate or political party to be present when envelopes containing official absentee ballots and mail-in ballots are opened, and when such ballots are counted and recorded. Authorized representatives may not challenge ballots and may not interfere with, hinder or unlawfully delay the board in conduct of its duties.

 

Contact

See something wrong, or have a suggestion on other information for this page? Email us at electionsinfo@alleghenycounty.us with your thoughts.