Everything You Need To Know About Voting In Allegheny County

Sep 25, 2020

Pennsylvania played a key role in the election of President Donald Trump in the 2016 election. This year, both Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have their eye on winning Pennsylvania and securing the state's 20 electoral votes. 

This election will look different than 2016, due to voting changes wrought by the pandemic. There are more ways now to vote than ever, and some are worried it’s too complicated.

“It can certainly appear that way,” says Andy Szefi, Allegheny County's solicitor. “I think if a voter really focuses on the fact that the access to the ballot box is easier with more options today than it ever has been, and you kind of have to filter out all the noise and just focus on what your options are.

The Confluence interviewed Szefi about the ins and outs of voting in the general election. Listen here and check out the links below. Answers to your questions about voting, deadlines and necessary forms can be found at the Allegheny County Elections Division.

Register to Vote or Check Your Registration

The deadline to register to vote is 5 p.m. on Oct. 19, 2020.

Make sure you’re registered—if you’re not sure, you can check your voter registration online.

There are several ways to register to vote if you aren’t already. You can register online. If you have a Pennsylvania driver’s license and access to the internet, registering online is quick and easy.

You can register by mail. Print out this form and mail it to 542 Forbes Avenue, 6th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 before Oct. 19, 2020. The county can send you a voter registration form, but you’ll need to call or email them. You can reach them by phone at 412-350-4500 or email ElectionsContact@AlleghenyCounty.us

You can also register to vote in person at the County Office Building — 542 Forbes Avenue, on the 6th Floor. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. You can also update your voter registration status while getting your PennDOT driver’s license.

If you’ve moved, changed your name, or want to change your party affiliation, you must do so by Oct. 19, 2020. There are several ways to update this information. You can do so online, with a paper form or by contacting or going to the county Elections Division. You can call or contact the Elections Division: 412-350-4500 or email ElectionsContact@AlleghenyCounty.us

Requesting a Mail-in Ballot

Anyone can vote by mail in the general election this year. You don’t need a reason or excuse. If you want to vote by mail, you need to request a ballot. The application to vote by mail and vote absentee is the same.

The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is 5 p.m. on Oct. 27, 2020. While you can request a mail-in ballot up to this date, election officials are urging people to request a ballot as soon as possible.

If you voted by mail in the primary election, do you need to apply again to vote in the general? This depends. If you checked the box for a “permanent” or annual mail-in ballot on the primary mail-in ballot application, then you will automatically receive the ballot for the general election and for the remainder of the year. On your application, this was step seven. The text next to the checkbox reads, "I would like to receive mail-in ballots this year and receive annual applications for mail-in ballots each year." If you didn’t check that box, you’ll need to apply again.

If you can’t remember, call the Elections Division at 412-350-4500 or email your name and voting address to ElectionsContact@AlleghenyCounty.us.

If you apply for a mail-in ballot for the general election and get rejected or told you can’t apply twice, contact the Elections Division immediately. You can call the Elections Division at 412-350-4500. You can also email the division at ElectionsContact@AlleghenyCounty.us.

You can check the status of your applications on the Department of State website.

Voting In Person

Allegheny County plans to have all in-person polling locations open for the general election. If you want to vote in person, check where your polling location is located. Remember to wear a mask.

If you applied for and received your mail-in ballot, but changed your mind and want to vote in person, you can do this. However, there are some rules you must follow. You have to bring your "ballot package" to the polling place. This means your ballot and all the envelopes, the ballot comes in an envelope, but it also contains the secrecy and declaration envelope. You have to submit your "ballot package" to the poll workers so it can be "spoiled." If you do not bring these materials with you to vote in-person, then you will have to vote provisionally. 

Allegheny County is opening satellite offices where voters can request and drop off ballots. In a way, this is early voting. Basically, you will go to one of these offices, fill out an application to vote, the application is processed, the voter is given a ballot and the ballot is dropped in a locked ballot box.

The offices and operating hours will be (addresses for each location can be found here):

Saturday, Oct. 10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • County Office Building
  • North Park Ice Rink
  • South Park Ice Rink
  • DPW Garage # 2 (Carnegie)
  • CCAC Homewood

Sunday, Oct. 11 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • County Office Building
  • North Park Ice Rink
  • South Park Ice Rink
  • DPW Garage # 2 (Carnegie)
  • CCAC Homewood

Saturday, Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • County Office Building
  • South Park Ice Rink
  • CCAC South
  • Boyce Park Ski Lodge
  • Shop ‘n Save Hill District

Sunday, Oct. 18 from 11a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • County Office Building
  • South Park Ice Rink
  • CCAC South
  • Boyce Park Ski Lodge
  • Shop ‘n Save Hill District

Saturday, Oct. 24 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • County Office Building
  • Boyce Park Ski Lodge
  • CCAC South
  • CCAC Allegheny
  • North Park Ice Rink

Sunday, Oct. 25 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • County Office Building
  • Boyce Park Ski Lodge
  • CCAC South
  • CCAC Allegheny
  • North Park Ice Rink

Fill Out Your Ballot

Filling out a mail-in ballot correctly is critical. First, when you get your ballot, carefully open it. You don’t want to rip your ballot in half. If you want to familiarize yourself with the ballot, Allegheny County provides sample ballots ahead of the general election.

Follow the ballot instructions carefully. There are three steps:

1.) Fill out the ballot. You should fill in the oval next to your candidate's name completely with a blue or black ballpoint pen only. Do not make any markings outside the ovals. If you mess up and worry you’ve damaged your ballot, contact the Allegheny County Elections Division at 412-350-4500. You can also email the division at ElectionsContact@AlleghenyCounty.us

2.) Put the completed ballot into the secrecy envelope, which is a blank envelope with "Official Mail-in Ballot" printed on the front. You must do this to avoid returning a “naked ballot,” one without a secrecy envelope. If you forget this step, your ballot will not be counted. The Pittsburgh City Paper did an extensive explanation of the “naked ballot” and how to avoid it. You can read it here

3.) Put the secrecy envelope containing your completed ballot into the declaration envelope and sign it.

Then, you can send off your ballot.

Returning the Mail-in Ballot

Once you get your mail-in ballot, fill it out and return it immediately. You can return your mail-in ballot through the mail or by dropping it off. You should prioritize the return of your ballot in advance of Nov. 3, 2020, to be extra safe. (Current law holds that ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 will be counted, but there are lawsuits challenging that regulation.)

If you're mailing your ballot, you don't need a stamp. The state is using a postage-paid ballot-return envelope. 

If the election is less than a week away, consider dropping off your ballot at the Elections Office, 542 Forbes Avenue, Room 601, during regular business hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

You can also drop your ballot at one of the county’s satellite offices, below:

Saturday, Oct. 10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • County Office Building
  • North Park Ice Rink
  • South Park Ice Rink
  • DPW Garage # 2 (Carnegie)
  • CCAC Homewood

Sunday, Oct. 11 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • County Office Building
  • North Park Ice Rink
  • South Park Ice Rink
  • DPW Garage # 2 (Carnegie)
  • CCAC Homewood

Saturday, Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • County Office Building
  • South Park Ice Rink
  • CCAC South
  • Boyce Park Ski Lodge
  • Shop ‘n Save Hill District

Sunday, Oct. 18 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • County Office Building
  • South Park Ice Rink
  • CCAC South
  • Boyce Park Ski Lodge
  • Shop ‘n Save Hill District

Saturday, Oct. 24 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • County Office Building
  • Boyce Park Ski Lodge
  • CCAC South
  • CCAC Allegheny
  • North Park Ice Rink

Sunday, Oct. 25 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  • County Office Building
  • Boyce Park Ski Lodge
  • CCAC South
  • CCAC Allegheny
  • North Park Ice Rink

Only you can return your completed ballot. You are not allowed to deliver a ballot for anyone else, unless it is an emergency situation. You'll need to fill out a form to get authorization to drop off someone else's ballot. 

Checking it Twice: Mail-in Edition

You’ve submitted your mail-in ballot. It’s either on its way through the U.S. Postal Service or dropped in a secure dropbox. Congratulations! You've voted. 

But, you're not done yet. Check on the Department of State website to make sure it has been counted.