One of the easiest ways you can help to determine the future direction of our country is by voting. This guide is designed to help you through every step of that process in preparation for the November 7, 2023 general election.
While this guide is geared toward students who may be first-time voters, the advice and resources provided below are useful for all students.
If you're unsure of how to proceed at any step in the registration or voting process, please don't hesitate to visit your campus library, or Ask a Librarian. For more information about the parties, the issues, and the democratic process, please visit our Voting and Elections guide.
In Pennsylvania, the deadline to register for the November 7 general election is Monday, October 23. For more important dates for PA elections, go to https://www.votespa.com/About-Elections/Pages/Upcoming-Elections.aspx. The deadlines for all other states can be found at https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/state-elections/state-election-dates-deadlines.htm.
Check if you're registered
PA residents: Go to https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/pages/voterregistrationstatus.aspx and search for your voter status by your driver's license or PennDOT ID number, or by name and location. Using an ID number provides the most accurate results.
Non-PA residents: Go to https://www.headcount.org/verify-voter-registration/ and select your state from the menu, or google "check voter registration status" and your state.
PA residents: Go to https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/pages/VoterRegistrationApplication.aspx and complete the online registration form. If you have been issued a driver's license or PennDOT ID, you must enter the identification number from your card to use the online registration form.
Non-PA residents: Google "voter registration" and your state to view your registration options.
Locate your polling place
PA residents: If you're already registered, your polling place is provided when you confirm your registration status at https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/pages/voterregistrationstatus.aspx. If your registration is still being processed, go to https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/PollingPlaceInfo.aspx and enter your address to find your polling place. Be patient with this page, it can load slowly after each entry on the form.
Non-PA residents: For most states, your polling place is provided when you confirm your registration status at https://www.headcount.org/verify-voter-registration/. If you're registration is still being processed, google "find polling place" and your state.
If you registered to vote by Oct 23 but, for any reason, you are not permitted to vote at a polling place, you may request a provisional ballot to complete and submit there. You may be at the wrong polling place, can't show an acceptable ID as a first-time voter, or have requested a mail-in or absentee ballot (which need to be turned in at the polling place to vote in-person). Within 7 days, election officials will review your eligibility to vote in PA and record your ballot if permissible. Visit this page to learn more: https://www.vote.pa.gov/Voting-in-PA/Pages/Voting-by-Provisional-Ballot.aspx.
Google "provisional ballots" and your state to learn more.
In previous years, college students who could not make it to their hometown polling place could apply for an absentee ballot. Now, any PA resident who wishes to vote by mail may do so!
Mail-in voting deadlines
In addition to a registration deadline, each state has a deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot, and another deadline for submitting your ballot. In Pennsylvania, mail-in ballot applications for the general election must be received by your county elections office by 5 PM on Tuesday, October 31, and completed ballots must be postmarked (or received if you return it by hand) by 8 PM on Tuesday, November 7. These deadlines do not leave a lot of time to receive a ballot in the mail, complete it, and mail it back to the elections office, so plan on applying for your absentee ballot well ahead of the deadlines if you can. While you can apply online to vote by mail, your vote must be registered on a paper form and returned by mail or in-person to your county elections office.
For other states' deadlines, go to https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/state-elections/state-election-dates-deadlines.htm.
Request an absentee or mail-in ballot
PA residents: For guidance on which type of ballot to request, how to apply, and the rest of the process for PA voters, go to https://www.votespa.com/Voting-in-PA/Pages/Mail-and-Absentee-Ballot.aspx.
Non-PA residents: Google "vote by mail" and your state for information on how to apply for and complete your mail-in ballot.
Options for returning your mail-in ballot
PA residents can either mail their completed (and double-enveloped) ballots to their county's elections office or return it by hand. And many counties are providing drop boxes for submitting ballots. For drop box locations, go to https://vote.pa/return/. Please follow the instructions for completing your ballot carefully!
Track your absentee/mail-in request and ballot status
PA residents can check on the status of their absentee or mail-in ballot request, as well as the status of their completed ballot, at https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/BallotTracking.aspx.