Frequently Asked Questions About Mail-in Ballots
1. What is the difference between an absentee and a mail-in ballot in PA?
Absentee ballots have existed in Pennsylvania for decades. Absentee ballots require a voter to be out of their municipality or unable to go to the polls because of illness or physical disability. Mail-in ballots were created by Act 77 of 2019. Any registered voter is eligible to request a mail-in ballot. Absentees and mail-in ballots both require the voter to apply and are processed exactly the same way by the Election Office.
2. Why did I receive an email regarding a mail-in ballot and/or received a mailed form in February?
Voters who are listed on the permanent absentee or mail-in list will receive a form each February asking if they would prefer to continue with the absentee or mail-in ballot for the calendar year. To continue receiving the absentee or mail-in ballot, fill out the side of the form with your information. To vote in-person and no longer receive the form each February, mark Option B and sign.
3. Why did I get an email saying my mail-in ballot application was denied as a duplicate?
Voters who are listed on the permanent mail-in list or who have already applied for a mail-in ballot will receive a duplicate error if they try to reapply.
4. Why did I get an email saying my mail-in ballot application was declined due to AFFILIATED (NO NON-PARTISAN ISSUE)?
Primaries in Pennsylvania are closed primaries, with the exception of special ballot questions. The only special ballot question in the 2023 Municipal Primary is in Lancaster City. In all other precincts, only registered Democrats and Republicans may vote in the 2023 Municipal Primary. Voters listed on the permanent absentee or mail-in list who were declined for a Primary absentee or mail-in ballot due to this issue are still slated to receive an absentee or mail-in ballot in November. It is advised that those voters check back in with the Election Office beginning in September to be sure their mail-in ballot application was accepted for the Municipal Election.
5. When I look my ballot up HERE, why does it say “pending”?
Application status is pending until the ballot is available and prepared for mailing.
6. I am temporarily living at a different address. May I have my mail-in ballot sent to the address of my current residence?
Yes. The mail-in application includes the option for an alternate address.
7. Why have I not received a ballot yet? When can I expect to receive a ballot?
Ballots will be mailed out about 30 days prior to the election. It is advisable to send it back as soon as possible after receiving.
8. Will my Party affiliation be listed on the outside of the mail in envelope?
Not in November. This only applies in the Primary.
9. What is the QR Code on my ballot and envelope for?
The 2D bar codes, also known as QR codes, on our ballots and return envelopes are to allow the vendor’s automated quality control process to ensure that the correct ballot is being mailed to the correct voter. The QR codes provide an automated way for equipment to read what is already printed in human readable form. They do not tie a ballot to a voter.
10. What happens if I forget to use the secrecy envelope provided with my absentee or mail-in ballot?
On September 17, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in 133 MD 2020 that an absentee or mail-in ballot that is not enclosed in the secrecy envelope will be disqualified.
11. If I get a mail-in or absentee ballot, what are my options for returning it outside of the U.S. mail?
You may bring your own ballot to the Election Office on 150 N. Queen Street, Suite 117 in Lancaster, 17603 (Chestnut Street entrance). The Election Office will be open during the county business hours of 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday through Friday.
12. I'd like to vote early.
You are able to receive an early in-person absentee or mail ballot by coming into the Elections Office. You will need to fill out an application in the Elections Office and then you will receive your absentee or mail ballot. You can then vote your ballot and turn the ballot back into the Elections Office during your visit. The deadline to apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot is on Tuesday, May 9, 2023.
13. May I return anyone's ballot other than my own?
No. Per Pennsylvania election law, voters must bring in or mail their individual ballot.
14. I submitted my ballot to the Lancaster County Board of Elections and have realized I forgot the secrecy envelope. May I fix this?
Unfortunately, this is not possible according to existing law. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled PA counties may not count ballots without secrecy envelopes.
Once a ballot has been recorded as received by the County, there is not a legal procedure for the County to return it to the voter or for the voter to alter it for any reason.
The County may not count a provisional ballot from any voter whose absentee or mail-in ballot has "been timely received" and not been cancelled because the ballot was received with an omission(s.) For more information, please see Pennsylvania Department of State Provisional Voting Guidance.
The County will not throw out ballots that do not have a secrecy envelope. They will be set aside, but not counted. If the County receives different court direction that supersedes or alters the PA Supreme Court decision, we will follow it.
15. May I vote at the polls if I applied for a mail-in ballot?
Yes, if the Election Office has not received the voted ballot. You may bring your ballot with the return envelope to the polling location to surrender to the Judge of Election and vote a regular ballot. If you do not have your ballot, you may vote provisionally. Provisional ballots will then be scanned by the Lancaster County Board of Elections to ensure that a completed ballot was not previously received.
16. Will polls be open on May 16th and November 7th for in-person voting?
Yes, but some poll locations may change. Voters will be notified of any location changes.