Written by Bisi Oyelola, Community Citizenship and Outreach VISTA, Office of Immigrant Affairs

One of the biggest benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen is gaining the right to vote. However, getting to the polls and understanding the electoral process can be a challenge. Because 2020 is an important election year, the Office of Immigrant Affairs wants to make sure new Americans have what they need to participate.

How do I know if I am qualified to vote?

You can vote if you are:

  • a U.S. citizen;
  • at least 18 years old by December 31 in the year you register to vote;
  • have not voted or claimed to have voted in any other state;
  • not in prison or paroled;
  • deemed mentally capable to cast your ballot.

If you meet these requirements, you are qualified to vote.

How do I register to vote?

You can register to vote online through Pennsylvania’s Department of State’s online application. You must also be a resident of Pennsylvania at least 30 days before the election to vote. If you are not, you will be ineligible to vote in the upcoming election. The deadline to apply was May 18, 2020. The primaries are on June 2, 2020.

How do I vote in person?

You can go to your registered polling place to vote. You can find your polling site using the Find Your Polling Place map. Enter your address, and the site will give you information on the closest polling site near you.

Voting & COVID-19

Because the City cannot predict the level of social distancing that will be needed at that time, the Health Department encourages everyone to consider voting by no-excuse mail-in or absentee ballot. Although polling places will be open on June 2, voting by mail will help reduce transmission of COVID-19 and reduce the number of voters gathering at polling places. Learn more about how to apply for a mail-in ballot. 

How do I vote by mail?

For instructions on how to mail in your ballot, visit the Office of Philadelphia City Commissioners. Applications for mail-in ballots must be received by the County Board of Elections no later than 5:00 PM on the Tuesday before an election. Mail-in ballot applications for June 2, 2020, primary election must be received by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.

Due to the pandemic, some City’s offices are closed. Please visit the Office of Philadelphia City Commissioners for more information on how to mail-in applications.

When do I vote?

You can vote in primaries and the general election. For 2020, the Pennsylvania primary is on June 2, 2020. The general election is on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

The primaries are elections that take place within each official political party: Democratic, Republican, or an independent party. They come before the general election and provide enrolled political party members the opportunity to nominate their party’s candidates for elected office. The City of Philadelphia created 2020 Primary Election Voter Guides about how to apply and vote by mail. Guides are available in multiple languages. Find out more information and important dates for voters.

General elections are when candidates are voted into office but every four years citizens vote in the U.S. president. Presidential candidates can serve for a maximum of two terms or 8 years. Learn more about the presidential election process.

What if I am not in my home state or in the U.S. when it’s time for an election??

You can cast an absentee ballot if you are unable to vote in your home state or permanent address.  Voters cast absentee ballots by mail. Some examples of people who would cast an absentee vote are:

  • College students who are not registered to vote at their school address;
  • People whose work or vacation take them away from the municipality where they live;
  • Those with a physical disability or illness that prevents them from going to the polling place;
  • Members of the military;
  • People who may have a conflict due to the celebration of a religious holiday;
  • Inmates who haven’t been convicted of a felony.

Absentee ballot applications must be received by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. To find out more visit Voter’s PA or Mail-In and Absentee Ballots via the Office of Philadelphia City Commissioners website.