Begin Main Content Area

Voting by Absentee Ballot

If you cannot go to your polling place in person on election day, you have other options.  Learn about absentee ballots to find out if you can vote by mail. 

An absentee ballot is a paper ballot sent to you by mail. You can mark and cast the ballot by returning it to the County Election Office.

To vote by absentee ballot you must be registered to vote. 

People who may vote by absentee ballot include:

    • College Students
    • People whose Work or Vacation take them away from the Municipality where they Live
    • Those with a Physical Disability or Illness that Prevents them from going to the Polling Place
    • Members of the Military
    • People who may have a Conflict due to the Celebration of a Religious Holiday


See the requirements for voting by absentee ballot below.

How do I apply for an absentee ballot?

​1. Fill in the paper absentee ballot application.  Mark the reason why you cannot get to the polling place on election day. In Pennsylvania, you must meet one of the listed reasons.

​2. Send your absentee ballot application to the County Election Office. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is one week before the election. Members of the military can apply at any time. 

​3. If accepted, you will get an absentee ballot with instructions from the County Election Office. 

To request an absentee ballot, you can:

    • Apply in Person 
    • Complete an Official Form
    • Send a signed letter to your County Election Office. You must include the same information as that on the application form.


The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot for the November 6, 2018 general election is 5pm on Tuesday, October 30, 2018.



What if I need assistance with my absentee ballot application or with voting?

You can choose another person to help you vote an absentee or alternative ballot. You and your assistant must print, complete, and return several forms to the County Election Office.

Forms for naming an assistant for an absentee or alternative ballot:




How do I vote with an absentee ballot?


​1. Mark your ballot, following the instructions.​2. Place your ballot in the secrecy envelope and then put the secrecy envelope into the official envelope. Be sure to sign the form, or your ballot may not count.​3. Return your ballot so it arrives at the County Election Office on time.

The deadlines to return your ballot vary: 

    • For most elections, the deadline to return your absentee ballot is 5pm on the Friday before Election Day. 
    • For presidential elections, ballots received by 8pm on Election Day will be counted for the offices of president and vice president.
    • Military and overseas voters must postmark their ballot by 11:59 pm the day before Election Day. The ballot must arrive no later than one week after Election Day.

Your county office must receive your absentee ballot by November 2, 2018 for the November 6, 2018 general election. (If you are a military or overseas voter, you must submit your ballot by November 5, 2018.  It must be received by your county office no later than November 13, 2018.)


You can find important information about voting by absentee ballot in the brochure  What Pennsylvania Voters Need to Know about Civilian Absentee Ballots (English)

If you have an emergency you may still be able to get an absentee ballot after the deadline, called an emergency absentee ballot. You can find information about how to get an emergency absentee ballot at the end of this page.

Voter ID for Absentee Ballots

There are new requirements for voter ID that took effect in November 2012.

To apply for an absentee ballot: 

    • You must provide a driver’s license number if you have one, or the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number. 
    • If you do not have a driver’s license or Social Security Number, you must submit a copy of an acceptable photo ID. 
    • You may provide this information to your County Board of Elections over the phone, by email, or mail.


The County Election Office will verify your identification before your ballot counts. If there is a problem, you have 6 days after an election to provide the necessary identification.

Some voters are exempt from these requirements, including:

    • UOCAVA Voters
    • Voters with a Disability
    • Voters over 65 Years Old and Affected by the Voting Accessibility for Elderly and Handicapped Act

Who can vote with an absentee ballot?

Registered voters who expect to be away from their home in Pennsylvania for the entire time polling places are open on Election Day can vote by absentee ballot

The following people may vote by absentee ballot if they are registered to vote:

    • A person with an illness or physical disability who is unable to go to the polling place or to operate a voting machine and obtain assistance by distinct and audible statements. (Note: A voter with a disability may have permanent absentee voter status.)
    • A person who will not go to a polling place on Election Day because of the observance of a religious holiday.
    • A spouse or dependent residing with or accompanying a person in the military service of the United States.
    • A member of the Merchant Marine and their spouse and dependents residing with or accompanying them.
    • A member of a religious or welfare group attached to and serving with the armed forces and their spouse and dependents residing with or accompanying them.
    • A spouse or dependent accompanying a person employed by the Commonwealth or the federal government, whose duties, occupation or business on Election Day require them to be away from the Commonwealth or their municipality of residence.
    • An individual, and their spouse and dependents residing with or accompanying them, with duties, occupation or business (including leaves of absence for teaching, vacations and sabbatical leaves) away from their official residence on Election Day.
    • A county employee who expects that their Election Day duties relating to the conduct of the election will prevent them from voting.


You may be able to vote with an absentee ballot even if you did not register to vote before an election. 

This includes:

    • A person who is or may be in the military service of the United States. They can be in Pennsylvania on Election Day or not. Voters in the military do not have to register before Election Day.
    • A qualified war veteran who is bedridden or hospitalized due to illness or physical disability if they are absent from the municipality where they live and unable to attend his/her polling place because of such illness or disability.

How do I get an Emergency Absentee Ballot?

In emergency situations (such as an unexpected illness or disability), you can request an Emergency Absentee Ballot.

The deadline to submit your Emergency Absentee Ballot Application to the County Election Office is 5 pm on the Friday before Election Day. 

This application must be notarized.


Last Minute Emergencies

If you have an emergency after 5 pm on the Friday before Election Day, you may still be able to vote.  

The deadline to submit your last-minute Emergency Absentee Ballot application is no later than 8 pm on Election Day. 

You can get a last-minute Emergency Absentee Ballot if:

    • You have an emergency after 5 pm on the Friday before Election Day.
    • You find out after 5 pm on the Friday before Election Day that you must be absent from the municipality where you live on Election Day. Acceptable reasons include business, duties, or occupation. 

To get an Emergency Absentee Ballot, you must give your information to the Court of Common Pleas in the county where you registered to vote. 

To request an Emergency Absentee Ballot, you can:

    • Complete an official Emergency Absentee Ballot Application.
    • Write a letter with signature or other signed document. You must include the same information as that on the Emergency Absentee Ballot Application. 

If you are not able to appear in court, you can choose another person to get the ballot, deliver it to you, and return the completed ballot to the county election office. 

If you are not able to appear in court or get help from another person, the judge will direct a deputy sheriff of the county to deliver the absentee ballot to you. To use this option you must be in the county.

Download the forms to request an Emergency Absentee Ballot after 5:00 pm the Friday before the election: