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Election Day: Know Before You Go

Whether you are going to the polls or voting by mail this November 7th, your vote counts. Although this is a Federal off-cycle year, many important local and statewide elections are still taking place, along with various significant ballot initiatives.

Some important dates and deadlines surrounding the election include the following:

  • If you are not yet registered, you must have done so by October 23rd.
  • In-person voting begins on November 7th and most polling places open as early as 7:00am.
  • This is also the last day for county boards of election to receive completed mail-in and civilian absentee ballots.
  • November 14th is the last day the board of elections can receive your ballot if you are in the military or overseas and are voting by absentee ballot.

Presidential elections are held every four years, in years divisible by four, while the elections to the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate are held every two years. Other state and local government elections can be held in any year that is designated by the state.

Election Day is observed on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This date was chosen as Election Day for future presidents on January 23, 1845. Tuesday was convenient because voters could attend church on a Sunday and travel to their polling stations on Monday. Women first cast ballots in 1869, and African Americans in 1870.

Before you head out to the polls, know where your local polling place is and ensure that is where you are registered to vote. In Pennsylvania, if you are a first-time voter, you must show proof of identification when you check in. Once your vote is cast, and according to where you live, elections are conducted in different ways. Typically, the local officials responsible for administering elections in their communities conduct most of the post-election procedures. Election officials in every locality follow a defined set of steps designed to reach a complete and accurate vote count. These multi-step processes build on numerous checks and safeguards to ensure electoral integrity.

Your vote matters, your vote counts. While presidential or other national elections usually get a significant voter turnout, local elections are typically decided by a much smaller group of voters. According to National Geographic, A Portland State University study found that fewer than 15 percent of eligible voters were turning out to vote for mayors, council members, and other local offices. Low turnout means that important local issues are determined by a limited group of voters, making a single vote even more statistically meaningful.

However, voting is only the first step. We must hold our local elected officials accountable and push them to fulfill their promise of change. This can be done through volunteering in your local government, sharing information, attending community meetings and events, and bringing attention to potentially unethical decisions and practices. Staying aware of what happens in the political sphere before, during and after an election, is key.  

If you are not yet 18, or are not a U.S. citizen, you can still participate in the election process. You may not be able to walk into a voting booth, but there are things you can do to get involved:

  • Be informed! Read up on political issues (both local and national) and figure out where you stand.
  • Get out and talk to people. You never know who might be listening. Even if you cannot vote, you can still voice opinions on social media, in your school or local newspaper, or other public forums.
  • Volunteer. In the state of Pennsylvania, it takes 45,000 poll workers to staff all poll locations on election days. If working the polls is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer with your local government on committees, commissions and boards. If you support a particular candidate, you can work on their campaign by participating in phone banks, doing door-to-door outreach, writing postcards, or volunteering at campaign headquarters. Your work can help get candidates elected, even if you are not able to vote yourself.

You can check your registration status, polling locations, and more at

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