How to Vote at your Polling Place on Election Day

This year's election will be the first of its kind, with three different ways to cast a vote, and a still unsettled legal environment, and some added public health complications due to the COVID-19 emergency. Voters have lots of good questions about how it's all going to work, so to help clear up some of the most common ones, we created this FAQ with a first pass at some answers. 

We'll keep this page updated as the situation develops, and as readers send us new questions. Please share this resource with any friends or neighbors who may have voting questions, and reach out with additional questions at [email protected]

 

How to Vote at Your Polling Place on Election Day

 

1. When are polls open on Election Day?

Polls open at 7:00 am on Tuesday, November 3rd and they close at 8:00 pm. So long as you’re in line at 8:00 you can vote, regardless of how long it takes.

2. Will I vote at my usual polling place this year? 

Most people will vote at their usual polling places, but it’s worth double-checking which ones are confirmed already, especially if you normally vote at a location that might be problematic from a COVID standpoint (senior centers, etc.)

The list of polling places is available to view here:

https://www.philadelphiavotes.com/en/home/item/1844-2020_general_election_polling_place_update_9-23

If your polling location isn’t on there, it is probably still being finalized. Check back closer to Election Day, or reach out at [email protected] and we’ll help you figure it out.

3. Can I drop off my completed mail ballot at my polling place on Election Day?

No! We’re not totally sure why, but you can’t drop off your completed mail ballot at a polling place on Election Day. 

If you still have your mail ballot on Election Day, drop it off at a drop box at a Satellite Election Office

4. What kind of safety protocols will be in place at polling locations?

The City Commissioners are still working on additional safety protocols, but we have a good sense of what things will look like on November 3rd. 

Both poll workers and voters will be provided with PPE -- masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer -- and voting machines will be wiped down after every use. Additionally, poll workers have the opportunity to be trained by The Voter Project on strategies to set-up their polling locations in as safe a manner as possible, including social distancing and limiting capacity. 

Voters can’t be denied the right to vote simply because they aren’t wearing a mask, however we learned two important things about pandemic polling places in the primary. First, the vast majority of voters behave in a safe and conscientious manner. And second, polling places are not covid hot spots, and there was no evidence of any community spread at any polling places in June. 

5. I heard there’s a shortage of poll workers and I’d like to help. Can I still do that?

YES! There is a critical shortage of poll workers, since many of our poll workers are older and at higher health risk. If you’re interested in working -- and getting paid $200+ for doing so -- sign up with The Voter Project and they’ll provide next steps. 

6. What if I request a mail ballot but change my mind and want to vote in-person on Election Day instead?

The short answer: You can do it, but it might be complicated and could create some problems. 

The longer answer: There has been a lot of confusion about whether a voter who requested a mail ballot should bring their ballot to the poll on Election Day, "spoil" it, and vote on a machine instead. The idea here is that machine votes will be counted on Election Night and won't contribute to the piles of paper ballots that need to be processed, so switching a mail vote for a machine vote should help things move more quickly and easily.

Here's how it works. Bring the entire unopened ballot package to your polling place on Election Day. There, you can hand it to the Judge of Elections, who will “spoil” the ballot. Next, you will be given a declaration to complete, which basically affirms that you haven't already cast a ballot in this election, among other things. Once you've returned the declaration, you should be able to vote on a machine like usual.

However, there are two risks associated with the mail-for-machine vote switch:

First, there's the chance that voters who attempt the switch will be denied the opportunity to vote on a machine. If you opened your mail ballot, or are missing parts of it, or your Judge of Elections is unsure that you're allowed to spoil your ballot and vote on a machine, she may require you to vote on a provisional ballot. Voting by provisional ballot is the least-certain voting option -- you're voting provisionally -- and casting a completed mail ballot is preferable to this option. So if your Judge of Elections tries to push you to vote provisionally, for whatever reason, you shouldn't vote at your polling place; instead, you should complete your mail ballot and drop it off at a drop box at a Satellite Election Office on Election Day. 

Second, the switch is a cumbersome process which will be rolled out for the first time during this election. That would be a challenge under normal circumstances, but will be even more of an issue this year, when there will be thousands of first time poll workers, many of whom didn't receive adequate training. For this reason, there is a very real chance that efforts to make the switch will create longer lines at the polls, and force people to wait inside their polling places for longer than they otherwise would. The last thing we want to happen is for the switch process to impact other voters, particularly those who don't have as much flexibility waiting in line. 

 

7. When will my vote be counted? 

Votes cast on voting machines on Election Day will be tabulated after the polls close that night.

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