Elections Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Allegheny County Elections

Mail-in and Absentee Ballots

When to expect a mail-in or absentee ballot to be delivered:

Use the Online Ballot Tracker

If status is pending, an application has been approved and the ballot has not yet been sent. When the status changes, it may take up to a week to receive the ballot in the mail.

After one week if the ballot has still not been received, contact the Elections Division for assistance. After contacting the Elections Division, voters may choose to go to the County Office Building during regular business hours to have a ballot re-issued.

County Office Building
First Floor Kiosk
542 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Map icon for linked directionsGoogle Directions

Office Hours
Monday - Friday
8:30 am - 4:30 pm

Applied for a mail-in or absentee ballot and haven't received it yet:

Ballots for the General Election will be sent as soon as they are available.

Verify the application and approval status using the ballot tracker tool.

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Deadline to return a mail-in or absentee ballot:

Completed ballots must be received by the Elections Division by 8:00 pm on Election Day in order to be counted. Ballots cannot be returned to a polling place. Note - the Allegheny County Elections Division has no oversight into the US Postal Service, and cannot control or provide information on mailing times. 

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.

Where to return a mail-in or absentee ballot:

For voters who do not wish to mail their completed mail-in or absentee ballots, they may return their own completed ballot to the County Office Building during regular business hours. Completed ballots cannot dropped off at a polling place on Election Day. 

As a reminder, voters may only return their own ballot pursuant to state law. Elections staff will confirm the declaration envelope has been signed and dated appropriately by the voter.

County Office Building
First Floor Kiosk
542 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Map icon for linked directions Google Directions

Office Hours
Monday - Friday
8:30 am - 4:30 pm

Returning someone else's ballot:

It is not permitted to return someone else's mail-in or absentee ballot. The only time that a voter can have someone else return their 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 also available on the Emergency Absentee Ballot page.

Ensuring a ballot is received and counted:

Use the Online Ballot Tracker

Voters who applied online and provided an email address will also receive an email update on the status of a returned ballot.

To ensure a mail-in or absentee ballot can be counted for the election, follow the accompanying instructions for the ballot very carefully. After marking the desired selections on the ballot, place it in the inner secrecy envelope and seal the envelope. Do not mark the secrecy envelope. The secrecy envelope containing the marked ballot then goes into the outer declaration envelope. The declaration envelope must be completely and correctly signed, dated, and sealed. Place a first-class stamp on the envelope and mail it.

Already returned a ballot that is not showing as received:

If a ballot is not showing as received or recorded, contact the Elections Division to verify ballot receipt information.

If confirmed that a mail-in or absentee ballot has not yet been received, a voter can go to a polling place on Election Day and request to complete a provisional ballot. The provisional ballot will be collected by poll workers onsite, then returned to the Elections Division and reviewed as part of the Return Board process. The Return Board will verify that the original mail-in or absentee ballot was not already cast, then open and count the provisional ballot with the official elections results.

On Election Day

First time and newly registered voters:

A first-time or newly registered voter will be noted as such in the poll book and will be asked to show an approved form of identification.

Inactive voter status:

Voters with a registration status listed as inactive  are still able to vote by signing a form to affirm that the voter still meets all necessary criteria to be a registered voter.

Voting systems:

In-person voting consists of paper ballots which are cast by filling in an oval next to the name of chosen candidate. Once completed, the voter feeds their ballot into a precinct scanner to record their vote.

For individuals who are unable to mark a ballot, each polling place is also equipped with an ExpressVote ballot marking device. After finalizing selections on an ADA-accessible device, the machine prints out a completed ballot that can then be fed into the precinct scanner to record their vote.

Learn more on how to use the ADA Voting System.

"Spoiled" and "surrendered" ballots for voting in person instead of mail-in or absentee:

If a voter has mail-in or absentee ballot and decides to vote in person instead, the voter must bring the entire ballot and supporting documentation to the polling place. A poll worker will write “spoiled” or “surrendered” on the ballot 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 they will be retained. The voter will then be asked to sign a form confirming that they wish to surrender their mail-in or absentee ballot and vote in person, and that they have not previously voted in this election.

Preventing multiple votes by mail-in or absentee and in person voting:

When a person has applied - regardless of whether a ballot is actually returned - the voter record indicates 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. The voter needs to bring the ballot with them, including envelope, and have it spoiled by the poll workers to vote. 

If the ballot is not available, the voter will be asked to vote using a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot is not counted on Election Day. Instead, it is returned to the Elections Division where it will be reviewed by the Return Board to ensure that the voter had not already cast a vote by mail-in or absentee ballot, or at another polling place. If no other ballot had been cast by the voter, that ballot is then opened and counted.


Poll watchers:

Poll watchers are individuals who are appointed by a candidate or party, and credentialed by the county, who observe the 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.

Voters interested in serving as poll watchers should contact the appropriate candidate or party of interest.

Authorized representatives:

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.

Ballot security for completed ballots returned before Election Day:

Any ballot that is returned in person is secured in the Office of the Elections Division, before being transported to the Elections warehouse. Ballots returned by mail are delivered directly to the Elections warehouse. Once a ballot is marked as returned, it is secured under lock and key and camera surveillance. Ballots remain there until 7:00 am on Election Day, at which time they are brought out in front of witnesses and processed for counting.