By Amy Kaminski, Principal, Mulberry Public Affairs LLC
There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers. – Susan B. Anthony
Voting is one of the simplest and most effective ways to use your voice and influence the future of your community. People sometimes think their vote does not matter, but that could not be further from the truth. Elections are becoming tighter and tighter with some contests being decided by a few hundred votes. In local municipal elections, the margin can be even smaller.
You have probably heard the saying that all politics is local. This means that affecting change starts with each individual. The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy, and the choices you make on your ballot can affect everything from the education your kids receive in public schools to how much funding is spent on infrastructure.
While voter turnout is often lowest in local and municipal elections – township council members, school boards, commissioners, etc. – these are the elections that most directly affect your daily life. So, while national elections – president, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives – garner the most intention, remember that elections happen every year and it is important to use your voice in elections for all levels of government.
There is sometimes so much information about how to register to vote, who can vote, and where to vote, it can seem overwhelming.
Here is a simple overview of how to make sure your voice is heard this November:
1. Register to vote. Pennsylvania has a website that outlines the simple steps for registering to vote: VotesPA. To vote in Pennsylvania, you must first register to vote at least 15 days before the election. October 19, 2020 is the last day to register before the November 3, 2020, general election. If you think you may have registered in the past or if you need to update your registration, you can also check you registration status on the VotesPA site.
2. Vote in person. Pennsylvania now offers options for voting in-person or by mail. If you would like to vote in person, polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day. You can find your polling location online. This year’s general election is on November 3, 2020.
3. Request a mail-in ballot. If you prefer, you can request a mail-in ballot to vote by mail and not go in person. You have two options for mail ballots: (1) mail-in ballots can be requested by any qualified registered voter for any reason; and (2) absentee ballots can be requested by any qualified registered voter if you plan to be out of the municipality on election day or if you have a disability or illness. Mail-in and absentee ballots can be requested online. You will need a valid PA Driver’s License or PennDOT ID number to complete the application. On this same page, you can request to have an application mailed to you instead of applying for one online. Mail-in and absentee ballot applications for the November 3, 2020, general election must be received by your county election office by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 27, 2020.
4. Submit your mail-in ballot. Once your mail-in application is approved, you will receive a ballot in the mail. Completed ballots must be RECEIVED by your county election office by 8:00 p.m. on November 3, 2020; postmarks are not enough. You will receive emails with updates to track your ballot and ensure it is received and processed.
Now that you are registered and ready to vote, how do you know who to vote for? The choice is yours! You can look up a sample ballot and learn more about the candidates in your area based on your address at Vote411. Happy voting!