Rep. Kevin Boyle: Some voting changes as primary election nears

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The April 28 primary election is approaching quickly, and with it comes new changes that will make voting easier and more accessible. Being able to cast a ballot and make your voice heard during our elections is one of our most treasured rights as Americans. As a legislator, I truly believe in making sure that we are doing all we can to make voting easy for our citizens.

As Democratic chairperson of the House State Government Committee, I’d like to walk you through some voting basics, including some recent changes to our election laws made when Act 77 of 2019 passed the State Government Committee, the House of Representatives and was subsequently signed into law on Oct. 31, 2019. These changes will be in effect for the upcoming primary.

For those who haven’t yet registered to vote, that’s the first step. If you’re unsure whether you’re registered, you can check online at http://votespa.com/status.

As a result of the new law, you now can apply to register to vote as late as 15 days before an election. For the upcoming primary, that date is April 13. Previously, the deadline was 30 days before an election, so this change gives you more time.

You can register online at Register.VotesPA.com, by mail or at some government agency locations, like PennDOT centers.

In addition to changes for registering to vote, there are changes to the procedures that could provide more flexibility and convenience.

First, you can still vote with an absentee ballot if you’re absent from the municipality where you would otherwise vote, if you have a physical disability or illness that would prevent you from getting to the polls, if you’re in the military, or if you have a conflict due to the celebration of a religious holiday.

However, something is new this primary election: Anyone can vote by mail-in ballot, for any reason; no excuse necessary.

That’s right; you don’t have to go to a polling location to cast your ballot unless that’s really what you want to do.

You must apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot by 5 p.m. on the Tuesday before the election, which is April 21 for the upcoming primary election, and the voted ballot must be received by the Philadelphia Commissioners Office by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

If you want to vote in person at a voting location, you’ll want to head to your designated polling location between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Your polling location is printed on your voter registration card. If you don’t have that and you’re not sure of your polling location, you can call your local election office – in Philadelphia, that number is 215-686-1591 — or you can check online at https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/PollingPlaceInfo.aspx.

If you’ve voted at your polling location before, you do not need to bring ID to vote. But if you’re voting at a polling location for the first time, you’ll need to show ID. Acceptable forms of ID are: driver’s license; passport; military, student or employee ID; voter registration card; firearm permit; current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or government check; and any ID issued by the commonwealth or federal government.

If you arrive at your polling location and find that your name is not in the poll book, the local officials at your polling location should call the county board of elections to determine if you’re registered. If they confirm you’re registered, you should be able to vote. If they can’t find your name but you believe you’re registered to vote and you’ve been omitted from the poll book, you may cast a provisional ballot, which will record your vote while the elections office confirms you’re eligible to vote.

Voting isn’t just a right, it’s a responsibility. It’s important that each one of us makes our voice heard on Election Day. If you have any issues at the polls, you can report them via the Department of State’s election complaint form, which you can find online at https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/ReportElectionComplaints.aspx, or you can call 877-868-3772.

As the state representative for the 172nd District and Democratic chair of State Government Committee, I value your trust in me to represent you in Harrisburg and will always fight for what is best for our communities. If there’s any issue or problem you have that my staff or I can help with, please reach out to us at 215-331-2600.

Happy voting! ••