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September 30, 2020Advocacy Matters

Casting a Ballot in Pennsylvania – Clearing up the Confusion

Disability Matters with Joyce Bender 

October 6, 2020 



Casting a Ballot in Pennsylvania – Clearing up the Confusion 


Voting has begun in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia has mailed out 100,000 mail-in ballots with more to distribute this week. Other counties will follow soon. We are one of the key states when it comes to casting and counting votes.

We’ve had legislative changes, court challenges, and judicial decisions.

We want to make sure disabled voters know the facts and have a plan to vote before November 3.


Accessible Remote Ballot Marking System

After Disability Rights Pennsylvania and private co-counsel filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the inaccessibility of the mail-in and absentee ballot process for blind voters, the Pennsylvania Department of State agreed to implement a system that allows blind voters and other voters with disabilities to vote using an Accessible Remote Ballot Marking system.

Eligible voters will be sent their ballots electronically and use their screen-reading software to mark their ballot privately and independently.

Voters with disabilities who want to vote using the accessible remote ballot marking system must FIRST apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot by the deadline as other voters. Then you must request the accessible remote ballot within 24 hours of applying for the mail-in or absentee ballot.

You will be mailed a packet of accessible voting materials with online instructions to access your ballot.

Go to our website at On our homepage, you will find today’s #AdvocacyMatters show which will have the link to the VOTESPA website for the remote ballot access instructions.


“Naked Ballots”

You must put your ballot in the secrecy envelope if you vote by mail. This includes blind voters who use the remote accessible ballot.

The technical term for a mail-in or absentee ballot without the secrecy envelop is a “naked ballot”. The secrecy envelope is the smaller envelope that fits into the larger envelope.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last month that mail-in and absentee votes must be received in the secrecy envelope to be counted. This is part of the official ballot.


Accessible Polling Places

You can find your polling place and learn about its accessibility at the same time.

This is important as counties have consolidated polling sites. It’s important to double-check to be sure you are going to the correct polling site.


New Deadline to Mail Your Ballot

Usually, the law requires the County Board of Elections must RECEIVE your ballot no later than 8:00 pm on Election Day. Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has extended the deadline for the November 2020 election, allowing ballots to be counted if they are received by the County Board of Elections no later than 5:00 pm on Friday, November 6 as long as they are postmarked by 8:00 pm on Election, November 3, 2020. However, that ruling is currently being appealed.




Why wait? Across the country, disabled people have requested their ballots already. Some states, and some counties in Pennsylvania, have already started to send out the ballots. People are voting now!

Don’t wait. Ask for your ballot now. Fill out your ballot as soon as you receive it. Send it back as soon as you are done.


Have a plan to vote.

Register before the deadline. Did you move? Update your registration.

In Pennsylvania, the deadline is October 19, 2020.


Decide how you will vote.

By mail, in person, or by remote accessible ballot?

Check for your polling site or request your mail-in ballot now.

The deadline for mail-in ballots is October 27 but do not wait. It is possible the U.S. Postal Service may not deliver the mail on time.


Go vote.