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Your voting rights and the law

You have rights as a voter protected by both federal and Pennsylvania law. Use this page to learn about your rights. 

It is illegal for any state or local government to discriminate against anyone by denying them the right to vote based on their: 
• race,
• ethnicity,
• national origin, or
• membership in a language minority.

Your right to vote can only be challenged if a poll worker, poll watcher, or another voter says you do not live in the precinct or are not who you say you are.

It is illegal for any person or corporation to intimidate or coerce you to vote for or against a particular candidate or political issue.

There are also laws that:
• protect people in language minority groups from discrimination,
• ensure that people with a disability or the elderly can vote independently and privately, and
• establish rights for people who are in jail or who have been convicted of a crime.

Language rights

Under federal law, counties must provide election services and information in another language when the population of voting age people who speak that language reaches a certain size. In any county, if you have limited English proficiency, you may choose someone to enter the voting booth with you to help you vote. 

Pennsylvania provides voter registration forms in Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and Vietnamese on the voter registration page. Other translated material may be found in in the Resource Center.

Rights for voters with a disability

Under federal and Pennsylvania law, each polling place must have a voting system that is accessible to voters with a disability.  If you cannot enter the voting booth or use the voting system due to a disability, you can select a person to enter the voting booth with you to provide help. 

Rights for people in jail or with a felony or misdemeanor conviction

If you are a person with a felony or misdemeanor conviction, or are in jail, on probation or under house arrest, there is special information about registering and voting.

What are the voting rights laws?

Throughout history, the federal government has strengthened our voting rights and increased protections against unfair voting practices.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965

This Act says that no state or local government may deny someone the right to vote based on their race or ethnicity. This law also protects against the discrimination of people in language minority groups. The federal government extended the Voting Rights Act in 1970, 1975 and 1982.

Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA)

To correct the problems encountered during the November 2000 Presidential Election, the United States Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act in October 2002. HAVA applies to all federal elections and has seven major requirements:

• Create standards for all voting systems used by the states.
• Require voting systems to be accessible to individuals with disabilities and those using alternative languages.
• Require the use of provisional ballots.
• Implement identification requirements for those who vote for the first time after registering by mail.
• Require states to implement a statewide voter registration database.
• Provide for a board to establish standards for what constitutes a vote.
• Require states to conduct educational programs for voters and Election Officials.

Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984

This law requires United States polling places to be physically accessible to people with disabilities for all federal elections.
If no accessible location is available to serve as a polling place, a county must provide an alternate means of casting a ballot on Election Day.