August 8, 2020

Vote in Pennsylvania

 I believe that the November 2020 election is the most important election in my lifetime. It is probably also the most problematic, given the ongoing pandemic, Republican attempts to restrict voting, and the president’s efforts to discourage mail-in voting.

Vote in Pennsylvania LogoThe upcoming election is of greatest importance for three reasons. First, we need to remove the proto-fascist Donald Trump from the White House. Second, if a President Biden is to be able to change the direction of the country, we need a Democratic Congress. Democrats need to hold the House and flip the Senate. Finally, state elections are crucial because the state legislators we elect will redraw electoral districts, a task that fell primarily to Republicans after the 2010 census and result in gerrymandering that assured that Republicans sent more people to Congress even in states where Democratic voters were in the majority.

The main message I want to send to my fellow Pennsylvanians is this: VOTE. Vote as though your life depends on it, but try to do so without actually putting your life in jeopardy. You can vote in person, of course, though this is potentially risky because of the coronavirus. It is better to vote by mail. It is no longer necessary to provide an excuse for doing so. Any voter can vote using a mail-in ballot.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has conveniently provided a Web site that provides all the information you need to vote. From that site, you can register to vote, check your registration, request a mail-in ballot, and find additional information related to the voting process. That Web site can be found here:

Here are some important dates you need to keep in mind:

  • The last day to register to vote if you are not already registered is October 19, 2020. Most people will be able to register on-line (see above link).
  • Applications for mail-in and absentee ballots must be received by your county election office by 5 p.m. on October 27, 2020. You must be registered to submit an application. Most people can apply on-line (see above link).
  • Ballots must be received by your county election office by 8 p.m. on election day, that is, November 3, 2020. Having an earlier postmark doesn’t count if your ballot is not received by that time.
Rules are slightly different for active-duty military personnel (see above link).

There are few compelling reasons to apply for an absentee ballot, which requires that you offer a reason for not voting in person. You can request a mail-in ballot simply because you want one. (This is a recent—and welcome—innovation.)

Finally, I offer some advice:
  • If you are a resident of Pennsylvania and you are not registered, register to vote as soon as possible.
  • If you are unsure about your voter registration, you can check it on-line.
  • If you are registered, even if you think you will want to vote in person, request a mail-in ballot right away. If you choose not to use it, you may still vote in person.
  • If you are going to vote by mail, fill in your ballot as soon as you get it and mail it to your county election office. (It can be hand-delivered if you prefer.) You can hold onto your ballot for a time if you are uncertain how you want to vote, but be keenly aware that your ballot must arrive on time to be counted. Do not rely on the swiftness of the U.S. Postal Service.

Remember: Democracy does not work if people don’t exercise their right to vote.

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