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Where to Vote: Should I Vote in Pennsylvania or my Home State?

College students have the right to register and vote at either their local or permanent address. 

To decide where you should vote, consider where you feel more connected and informed about local issues. You might also consider where it would be easier for you to vote based on the timing of the election as well as the impact of where you vote.

FAQs About Registration and Voting in all 50 States

In Pennsylvania

Who can vote in the Pennsylvania Primary Election?

You can vote in the Pennsylvania Primary Election if you are registered to vote at a Pennsylvania address AND registered as a political party. Pennsylvania has a closed primary, which allows only those who register with a political party to vote. Not all states are like this, so be sure to check your local requirements when determining primary eligibility.

Do I have to register with a political party?

Not necessarily. To vote in the Pennsylvania Primary Election, you must be registered with a party in order to vote in that party’s Primary Election. To vote in the General Election, you do not need to be registered with a party and may vote for candidates from whichever party you choose.

How do I know if or where I am registered?

You can check your registration status through your local election authority. If you intended to register in Pennsylvania, you can check your status on the PA Voter Services website.

What if my election authority says I am not registered?

If you submitted your registration form recently, note that it often takes several weeks for this information to process. If you have any concerns or questions about this, contact your local election authority. In Pennsylvania, you can go to the Votes PA website to find the contact information for the election office in each county.

How can I register to vote in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, there are four ways to register. 

  1.  Register online. Input your information, which will be reviewed by an election official from the county in which you intended to register. When this process is complete, you will receive a voter registration card in the mail. If your card does not arrive in the mail within 14 days, contact your county election office.
  2. Print the Pennsylvania voter registration form, fill it out, and mail it into your county election office. Don’t forget to put a stamp on the envelope. Once the county election office receives it, they will review it and then send your voter registration card in the mail. If you wish to print a Pennsylvania voter registration form in a language other than English, you can find those forms on the Votes PA website.
  3. Register to vote at your county election office in person. Find your county election office. Simply fill out the application and hand it to the clerk at the elections office. They will send your voter registration card in the mail.
  4. Register at any Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) photo or driver’s license center when you obtain or update your driver’s license. Find a PennDOT location near you Find a PennDOT location near you. You can also register at many other state government offices, including
    • State offices that provide public assistance and services to persons with disabilities
    • Armed Forces Recruitment Centers
    • County Clerk of Orphans' Court offices, including each Marriage License Bureau
    • Area Agencies on Aging
    • Centers for Independent Living
    • County Mental Health and Mental Retardation offices
    • Student disability services offices of the State System of Higher Education
    • Offices of Special Education
    • DA Complementary Paratransit offices
    • Any agency using the Compass application
When is the voter registration deadline?

In Pennsylvania, the voter registration deadlines is 30 days before the upcoming election. For the 2018 General Election, the deadline to register is October 9, 2018.

I am currently registered at my permanent address. Can I change my registration to my campus address?

Yes. You have the right to register and vote at either your permanent or local address.

Where do I vote? Where is my polling place? When are polls open?

To find your polling place, use the PA Voter Services website. On Election Day, all polling locations in Pennsylvania are open from 7 AM to 8 PM.

Can I vote early?

Early voting is not allowed in Pennsylvania.

What do I need to bring to the polling place in order to vote?

Voters voting for the first time in their precinct must show ID. The ID can be a photo or non-photo ID. This is the only time ID is required. Unless you are voting for the first time in your precinct, poll workers should not ask you for photo ID, and you will NOT need to present ID to vote in the 2018 Primary or General Election.

Approved forms of photo identification include:

  • Pennsylvania driver’s license or PennDOT ID card
  • ID issued by any Commonwealth agency
  • ID issued by the U.S. Government
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. Armed Forces ID
  • Student ID
  • Employee ID

If you do not have a photo ID, you can use a non-photo identification that includes your name and address.

  • Confirmation issued by the County Voter Registration Office
  • Non-photo ID issued by the Commonwealth
  • Non-photo ID issued by the U.S. Government
  • Firearm permit
  • Current utility bill
  • Current bank statement
  • Current paycheck
  • Government check
What am I allowed to bring with me into the polling place and/or voting booth?

Voters are allowed to bring campaign literature, notes, and electronic devices into their voting booths. Court cases have even established your right to take a “ballot selfie” but you are not allowed to take pictures of other voters’ ballots. You may wear campaign clothing, buttons, or other items in the polling place, but you are not allowed to actively campaigning in a polling place. Signs and campaigning are not allowed within ten feet of the entrance to a polling place. 

In Other States

Who can vote in my state's Primary Election? Do I have to be registered as a Republican or Democrat?

Who is eligible to vote in state primaries varies by state. Many states allow all registered voters to participate in party primaries; these are called open primaries. Some states limit participation to voters previously registered with a political party; these are called closed primaries. Still other states list all candidates on the same ballot regardless of party; these are called top two or nonpartisan primaries.

Use the U.S. Vote Foundation website to find out what kind of Primary Election is held in your state.

How do I know where or if I am registered?

You can check your registration status through your local election authority.

What if my local election authority says I am not registered?

If you submitted your registration form recently, note that it often takes several weeks for this information to process. If you have any concerns or questions, contact your local election authority.

How can I register to vote or update my registration with my current address or new political party affiliation?

Make sure there is still time to register or update your registration before your state’s deadline. Most states have voter registration deadlines between 7 and 30 days prior to each election, though some states allow voters to register at the polls on Election Day. To view the registration deadlines for your state, see Registration Deadlines by State.

States typically allow registration in person, by mail, and increasingly, online. In many states, registrants may be able to complete the entire process online (particularly when you are using a state-issued photo ID from that state to register). View a list of states that allow full online registration. However, in some cases, you will need to take additional steps like printing, signing, and mailing forms, submitting copies of IDs, etc.

 

What information do I need to register?

When you are registering by mail or online, most states will request an in-state driver’s license or state-issued ID number (do not use an out-of-state number), OR if you do not have one, the last four digits of your social security number. Some states may request or require your full social security number or may request or require both a license or state ID number and the last four digits of your social security number.

If you are registering in person, or the first time you vote if you registered by mail, you may also be asked to show ID, including something that proves your identity (a driver’s license, state ID, passport, birth certificate, or social security card) and something that shows your current address (postmarked mail, a utility bill, a bank or credit card statement, a pay stub, a lease or rental contract, etc.).

I am currently registered at my local address. Can I change my registration to my permanent address?

Yes. You have the right to register and vote at either your local or permanent address.

How to Vote if I am IN my home State at the time of the election

Where do I vote? Where is my polling place? When are the polls open?

To find your polling place, use the Polling Place Locator for your state.

Polling places generally open between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. and close between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. For the specific hours for your state, see Polling Place Hours by State.

What do I need to bring in order to vote? What am I allowed to bring with me into the polling place and/or voting booth?

Most states request or require some form of ID in order to vote, either for all voters, or only those who registered by mail and are voting for the first time at their current registration address. As a result, while it may not be required, we recommend bringing ID (including a current photo ID and proof of residence) when you go to vote. For the specific rules for your state, see Voter ID Requirements by State.

As a general rule, you are allowed to bring notes or sample ballots with you to the voting booth and to look up information on your phone. However, in some states, you are NOT allowed to take photos of your ballot or inside the polling place.

How to Vote if I am OUT of my home State at the time of the election

Can I vote early? Can I vote by mail?

Most states allow early voting (or in-person absentee voting), from 3 days up to 30 or even 45 days prior to each election. To view early voting options for your state, see this Early Voting Calendar by State.

All states allow absentee voting for voters who request it. Some states may require voters to provide an excuse, but even in those states, there will always be an excuse applicable to college students (such as being a college student by occupation, temporarily living or traveling outside the jurisdiction on Election Day, or being otherwise unavoidably absent or unable to make it to the polling place on Election Day).

In most states, voters must request an Absentee Ballot for each election. Some states offer a permanent absentee ballot list; once a voter is added to this list, s/he will receive an absentee ballot for each election automatically. A few states conduct their elections entirely by mail for all voters.

To view absentee voting or vote by mail options for your state, see Absentee and Early Voting by State.

How do I request an absentee ballot?

Make sure there is still time to request an absentee ballot before your state’s deadline. Most states recommend submitting your absentee ballot request at least one month prior to the election, though some states will continue to accept absentee ballot requests one week prior or sometimes even less. View Absentee Ballot Deadlines by State. You are encouraged to apply as early as possible to make sure you receive your ballot on time.

States typically allow absentee ballot requests to be submitted in person, by mail, and sometimes by fax or email. In some states, registered voters may be able to request absentee ballots entirely online. However, in most cases, you will need to take additional steps like printing, signing, and mailing forms, submitting copies of IDs, etc.

Once you submit your request, you will be mailed a paper ballot to the address you choose, to complete, sign, and return. In some cases, you may be able to download a ballot or receive one via fax or email.

How do I return my absentee ballot?

Completed absentee ballots can typically be returned by mail or in person, though some states may allow ballots to be returned by fax or email. Your ballot should provide instructions on how, where, and when to return it.

In most states, absentee ballots must be received by the time polls close on Election Day; however, some states may have slightly earlier deadlines, and some states may continue to accept absentee ballots as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. View Absentee Ballot Deadlines by State. You are encouraged to return your ballot at least one week prior to Election Day to ensure it is received on time.

Where is my absentee ballot? What if I did not receive it?

If you have requested an absentee ballot but have not yet received one, contact your local election authority to confirm that they received your absentee ballot application and verify there were no errors in processing.

Some states will allow you to track your absentee ballot online. At vote.org, there are links for each state’s ‘Election Center’ at the bottom of the page. On your state’s page, under ‘Offsite Links’, there will be a link to an ‘Absentee Ballot Tracker Tool’ if your state offers one. If not, look up the contact information for your local election authority and contact them directly via phone or email.

If you run into trouble (e.g. they say they have mailed you a ballot but you have not received it), they should be able to help you identify a variety of alternative solutions, which will vary by state.