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Voters with disabilities need to be prepared for any challenges they may face. This Survival Kit will provide you with the information you might need to cast your vote and have it counted.
Most of this resource is specific to the laws and voting procedures of Pennsylvania. Disability Rights Pennsylvania encourages you to share this resource with anyone who may be assisted with this information. If you live in a state other than Pennsylvania, please note that some of the laws and procedures in your state may be different.
An important first step in the voting process is to get registered. If you’re not sure if you’re already registered to vote, you can verify your registration online.
Once you’re registered to vote, the next thing is to find out where you go to vote. This is called your ‘polling place’. If you’re not sure where your local polling place is, you can search online.
In order to vote, you will need to verify your identify. There are rules and laws about what type of identification can be used to verify who you are before you vote. If this is the first time you’re voting, it’s important to understand the identification requirements before you go.
There may be times when your polling place does not meet accessibility needs for individuals with physical disabilities. If you go to vote and find that you are unable to access your polling place due to it being inaccessible, there are steps you can take to still vote.
Voters with disabilities have the right to receive assistance in the voting booth from the person of their choice. The person providing assistance can be almost anyone – a friend, a family member, or even a poll worker. However, the assistant cannot be: (1) the voter’s employer; (2) the voter’s union representative; or (3) the Judge of Elections.
If you are unable to travel to the County Elections Office on Election Day, you can get a friend or relative to act as your agent to travel back and forth to the County Elections Office.
If the poll worker cannot find your name on the list of registered voters, ask them to look at the list of “inactive voters.” Voters who have not voted for a few elections, or who did not receive or respond to official election mailings have been placed on a list of “inactive voters.” The act of voting will be sufficient to transfer your name from the “inactive” to the “active” list. If your name cannot be found on either list, and if you are sure you are at the correct polling place – ask for a provisional ballot. Federal law requires that you be provided with a provisional ballot in such a case. Do not leave the polls without casting a vote!
In Pennsylvania, we have only three qualifications for a person to register and to vote. The individual must be:
1. A citizen of the United States for at least one month before the election;
2. A resident of Pennsylvania and the election district for at least 30 days before the election; and,
3. At least 18 years of age on or before the day of the election.
Pennsylvania law does not restrict the right to vote of people who happen to have developmental, mental health, or physical disabilities. In rare instances, Courts issue orders depriving people of the right to vote. But so far, “electors” in Pennsylvania cannot be challenged on competence, ability or worthiness to vote.
Persons convicted of felonies (or any other crime) are eligible to vote! Only individuals currently incarcerated in penal institutions for felony convictions are denied the right to vote.
Procedures for an Emergency Application for Absentee Ballot
The Pennsylvania Legislature created procedures for voters to vote by absentee ballot when circumstances prevented the voter from applying by the regular deadline of one week prior to Election Day. If you become physically disabled or ill between 5:00 P.M. on the Friday before Election Day and 8:00 P.M. on Election Day or if you find out after 5:00 P.M. on the Friday before Election Day that you will be absent from your municipality of residence on Election Day because of your business, duties or occupation, you can receive an emergency absentee ballot if you complete and file with the court of common pleas in the county where you are registered to vote. An emergency application or a letter or other signed document includes the same information as that provided on the emergency application.
Obtaining an Emergency Absentee Ballot If You Are Not Able to Appear in Court
If you are not able to appear in court to receive the ballot, you can designate, in writing, a representative to deliver the absentee ballot to you and return your completed absentee ballot to the county Board of Elections.
If you are not able to appear in court or obtain assistance from an authorized representative, the judge will direct a deputy sheriff of the county to deliver the absentee ballot to you if you are at a physical location within the county.
Call the Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OURVOTE (1-866-687-8683)
This resource created by Disability Rights Pennsylvania