Decision 2020

Deadlines for Pennsylvania Voters Using Mail-in Ballots

After the U.S. Supreme Court voted to stay out of a fight over Pennsylvania's election regulations -- for now -- some of the rules governing the Nov. 3 election are falling into place. Here's a quick rundown.

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What to Know

  • The U.S. Supreme Court allowed Pennsylvania to count ballots received up to three days after the election, rejecting Republican attempts to tighten the deadline.
  • Republican state lawmakers continue to reject requests from county election officials and Gov. Wolf's administration to allow early counting of mail-in ballots.
  • The Wolf administration is waiting for a state Supreme Court ruling about signatures on mail-in ballots, which could force all 67 counties to count ballots no matter what a signature looks like. Below you'll find deadlines for voters to keep in mind.

The rules governing the Nov. 3 presidential election in all-important Pennsylvania remain uncertain thanks to some litigation, but that doesn't mean voters need to feel confused about how to cast a ballot.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 19 not to change the deadline for counting mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania, some court battles could pop up again in the final two weeks. However, with each passing day, the possibility of lawsuits over the state's election code grows less likely.

For voters, almost every deadline and rule is already set in stone. One that could affect voters' mail-in ballots, however, remains unresolved. It involves the signature on the outer declaration envelope. Gov. Tom Wolf's administration has asked the state Supreme Court to require all 67 counties accept all mail-in ballots that have a signature, even if that signature differs from the one on a voters' original registration card.

Legal observers expect that ruling to come down very soon, and believe it is likely the state Supreme Court will side with the Wolf administration.

Currently, most counties in Pennsylvania have agreed to follow guidance from Pennsylvania election officials to count every mail-in ballot that has a signature. Some counties, however, have held out, with local election officials saying the signatures on ballot declaration envelopes must match the original signatures on file with election officials.

Voters, meanwhile, need only concern themselves with getting their ballots back to election offices as soon as possible, Pennsylvania's top election official Kathy Boockvar said Wednesday.

If you’re voting by mail in Pennsylvania, there are a few steps you need to make sure you complete to properly fill out your ballot. Here’s a step-by-step guide to make sure your vote will be counted.

"I don’t care what any court decision says," Boockvar, the secretary of state, said on a call with reporters. "I want every voter who wants a mail-in ballot to get the mail-in ballot today."

"Ballots need to be mailed this week. Or if they will be dropped off, it needs to be dropped off by next (Tuesday)," she added.

Here are the important deadlines for voters using mail-in ballots:

  • Oct. 27: The deadline for a registered voter to request a mail-in ballot or to drop off a mail-in ballot in-person at a satellite county election office.
  • Nov. 3: Election Day is the last day a mail-in ballot can be postmarked by the U.S. Postal Service in order for it to be counted.
  • 8 p.m., Nov. 3: The deadline for putting a mail-in ballot into a drop box in your county. Once the polls close in Pennsylvania, the drop boxes will be locked for good.
  • Nov. 6: The third day after the election is the last day a mail-in ballot can be received for it to be counted in the general election. So even if it is postmarked by Nov. 3, if it is not received by the Friday after Election Day, it will not be counted.
Should counties in Pennsylvania be allowed to start processing mail-in ballots before Election Day? Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar weighs in on the debate in an interview with NBC10’s Lauren Mayk.
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