PA General Election:
Nov. 3, 2020

Recent changes in Pennsylvania's election law — compounded by procedural changes made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic — mean that students who registered to vote through an F&M Votes drive have to pay extra attention this year to exercise their right to vote. F&M Votes created this guide to make sure you know exactly what you need to do.

STEP 1: Register to Vote

Now! 

Why register to vote in Pennsylvania?

  • Pennsylvania is considered a swing state in all elections, not just the presidential one!  PA has elections every year (odd years are local government and judicial seats; even years are legislatures and executives). 

  • Lancaster County has also proven to be increasingly more a “toss-up county” than in the past, as demographics and party registrations have shifted. Consider where you think your vote will pack the most punch!

  • In a typical, non-pandemic year, we boast about the fact you can walk across College Avenue and vote in between classes, and there is a very enthusiastic atmosphere on campus all day long.  No shuttles to get to a polling place, no massively long lines and no issues of trying to disenfranchise young people from voting. We have a very supportive team ready to help you get this done!

Can I register to vote in Pennsylvania? 

  • Yes!

  • Regardless of whether you live in a residence hall, live in approved housing off campus, are studying remotely from your parents house or are taking a leave of absence; if you are enrolled at F&M (or have enrolled in the past but not yet graduated), you can legally vote in Lancaster County. Legally, you can vote in Lancaster County instead of your home county because you have established residence at the College. You’ll need to use the paper registration form (unless you are a PA resident with a PennDOT Driver's License/ID). It’s important that you use 415 Harrisburg Ave, Lancaster PA 17603 as your address to ensure you are placed in the correct voting precinct!

  • To be eligible to vote, you must be a US citizen, and be at least 18 years of age by the time of the upcoming election.

But what if I'm studying remotely or took a leave of absence?

  • Again, if you are enrolled at F&M (or have enrolled in the past but not yet graduated), you can legally vote in Lancaster County. Legally, you can vote in Lancaster County instead of your home county because you have established residence at the College. We have confirmed this process with the local board of elections.

What if I previously registered at my home address?

  • You will likely switch your voter registration any time you move in the future, and this is no different! There is space on the registration form to indicate a previous registration and change of address.

How do I register to vote in Pennsylvania?

  • F&M Votes plans to do in-class drives for some first-year classes, but COVID-19 precautions will limit our direct interactions this year. If you don't see us, check out our sample registration form, and then...

  • Pick up a blank registration form in the ITS Innovation Zone (basement of Harris), the Steinman College Center Info Desk, or the Shad-Fack and Martin Libraries. At those locations, you will also find a dropbox for completed forms.

  • You can also download and print out our sample registration form and the blank registration form. Drop your completed form off at one of the locations above.

  • If you are a PA resident with a PennDOT Driver's License or ID, you can register at votesPA.com. Be sure to use 415 Harrisburg Ave, Lancaster PA 17603 as your physical address. That will ensure you are in the correct voting precinct with your peers.  

I think I am registered here in Lancaster from a previous year. How can I check? 

  • Go to votespa.com and choose “registration status by name” (unless you have a PennDOT License/ID). 

  • You’ll want to enter “LANCASTER” and “17603” if you are confirming that you are registered at school. 

  • Most states will have a similar look-up procedure. An easy way to get to each state’s election look-up is to visit the National Association of Secretaries of State. Select Voter Registration Status. 

  • If your polling place is listed as LANCASTER CITY 9W 4P, then you are OK to proceed to Step 2 below.
  • If your polling place is different than you expected or no record is found, please contact us.

What is the deadline to register to vote?

The Pennsylvania registration deadline is Monday, October 19.  However, that is rather late in the mail-in ballot time frame, so we cannot stress how important it is to DO THIS RIGHT NOW!

 

 

STEP 2: Request a Mail-In Ballot as soon as you confirm your registration 

You cannot request a mail-in ballot at the same time that you register to vote. However, once you confirm your registration, you can request a mail-in ballot via the method listed above. Request it as quickly/early as possible.

What is the difference between mail-in voting and absentee voting?

  • Prior to 2020, Pennsylvania had a strict system limiting absentee voting to a limited number of reasons (work, illness, etc.).
  • Now, however, as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania website puts it: "Any qualified voter may apply for a mail-in ballot. You may simply request this ballot without a reason."
  • So, even though PA still offers absentee ballots alongside mail-in ballots, there is essentially NO DIFFERENCE for F&M students who simply want a more convenient way to vote OR want to be prepared in case the College closes before Nov. 3.

Where should I have my ballot mailed?

This is a very important consideration and you should decide based on a few factors:  

  • If you are currently living in the college-owned spaces (dorms, college-owned apartments, etc), you need to realize that there is a chance that we could be forced to go all online before the ballots arrive in October. If you are forced to move out and go home, you will not have access to your college mail. Therefore, we strongly suggest using a more reliable address like your home and having it sent to you here if we are still in Lancaster. 

    • If you do use the mailroom in the College Center, make sure you use (your name), PO Box 3220, Box #___, Lancaster PA 17604.

    • If your ballot doesn’t arrive by election day in Lancaster, and we are still here on November 3rd, you can go to the polling place if your ballot doesn’t arrive to your mailbox by Election Day and they’ll make sure to strike your name from the mail-in ballot check-in (so that you only vote once).

  • If you are currently living in College-approved housing like College Row and Hill, you should use your physical address there to ensure that you still get your mail if we were to go all online!

  • If you are spending the semester at home (away from Lancaster), use the address where you are currently living. You can still vote via your PA registration even if you have your ballot mailed to another address.

How do I apply?

If you have a PA driver's license:

You may apply for a mail-in ballot online, but must do so before Oct. 27. You can request that the ballot is mailed to your current address. 

When beginning the form, choose NO for the first three questions.

mail-in ballot app
  • In the "Your Address" section, make sure the address matches that which appears when you confirmed your registration status. In other words, if you registered as instructed above, use 415 Harrisburg Ave, Lancaster PA 17603
  • In the "Where to mail ballot?" section, again, we strongly encourage you to use an alternate address, like your home address, so that you can easily access this ballot should the College close early.

If you do NOT have a PA driver's license: 

Without a PA driver's license, you must print and mail in a physical paper request (see Option 2). Since such requests must be received before Oct. 27, we strongly encourage you to do this as soon as you've confirmed your registration!

  • In the "Your Address" section, make sure the address matches that which appears when you confirmed your registration status. In other words, if you registered as instructd above, use 415 Harrisburg Ave, Lancaster PA 17603
  • In the "Where to mail ballot?" section, again, we strongly encourage you to use an alternate address, like your home address, so that you can easily access this ballot should the College close early.
 Step 3: Vote!
If you've registered to vote, confirmed your status as a PA voter and have requested your mail-in ballot, YAY! 
See the resources on our home page to learn more about the candidates, and then vote.

If you are still on or near campus and want to vote in person:

As of Sept. 1, elections in Lancaster County are proceeding as planned on Tuesday, Nov. 3, likely with social distancing and mask requirements in place. 

  • Walk over to the Lancaster Theological Seminary Schaff Library, 555 W. James Street (across College Ave from Shad-Fack Library).  Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Bring your F&M student ID.  If it is your first-time voting at the Seminary, they can legally ask for your ID.  Your F&M ID helps to certify your F&M address (since you might have a license under a different state). 

  • WEAR A MASK! Consider taking your own BLACK ballpoint pen. DO NOT gather in groups. Try to distance yourself!

  • If you are registered in Lancaster, but your mail-in ballot never arrived, you still have the right to ask to vote at the Seminary. Your name will be struck from the mail-in list, and your in-person vote would be what is counted.

 

If you need to or decide to use your mail-in ballot:

Mail your completed ballot as soon as possible. Ballots are due to the Lancaster County Board of Elections by the end of day on Election Day itself. You should give two weeks for the U.S. Postal Service to deliver your ballot back to them. This means mailing it NO LATER THAN Oct. 20.

You may also choose to drop off your ballot at the Lancaster County Board of Elections if you wish. It is located in the heart of Downtown Lancaster, a block away Central Market, at the County Government Building.  

  • The building is at the corner of N Queen Street & E Chestnut Street.

  • You should enter on the Chestnut Street side of the building and go through the metal detectors. The Elections Office is to the left on the first floor. 

  • View the building address and operating hours (Monday-Friday) here.