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May 09, 2023

Everything you need to know about voting in the May 16 primary election

This voting guide includes mail-in ballot return deadlines, drop box locations, how to find your polling location and more useful information for coming election

2023 Election Voting
2023 voting guide Element5 Digital/Unsplash

Get information about where to vote, how to check your voter registration and where to drop off mail-in ballots for the 2023 primary election in Philadelphia.

With the 2023 primary election approaching quickly, Philadelphia voters are running out of time to finalize their Election Day plans.

This is a municipal election year in Pennsylvania. In the city, on Tuesday, May 16, the Democratic primary for Philadelphia mayor is the highest profile race. There nine candidates on the ballot, and the winner will run against former City Councilmember David Oh in the general election in November. Oh does not have an opponent in the Republican primary.

PHILLY MAYOR'S RACE: Cherelle Parker projected to win nomination in Democratic primary  | PHILLY CITY COUNCIL RACES: Democratic incumbents Thomas, Richardson, Harrity, along Landau and Ahmad lead at-large primary | PHILLY'S ROW OFFICE ELECTIONS: Voters tasked with picking nominees for city controller, sheriff and register of wills

There also are primary elections for Philadelphia City Council — district seats and at-large seats — and the city row offices, along with several judicial races and four ballot questions to answer.

Remember that Philadelphia has closed primaries, which means you'll only be voting for candidates matching your party registration. Independents cannot vote for Democratic or Republican candidates, but everyone can cast votes on the on the four ballot questions in this election cycle.

Whether voting by mail or heading to the polls on May 16, and we've compiled a handy voting guide to help you figure out how. But make note: All mail-in or absentee ballot requests must made by Tuesday, May 9. For more information about requesting mail-in ballots and where to take them once they are completed, as well as how to track mail-in ballots and other election day information about, like what hours the polls are open, keep reading our primary election voting guide:

Can I still register for vote?

The deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania in the 2023 primary election passed Saturday, May 1. You can still register in plenty of time for the general election this November.

How do I check my voter registration?

Head to the Pennsylvania Department of State's website. Once there, you have two options: Look up your status by name or by your driver's license number/PennDOT ID. 

Either option will bring up the record of your voter status, which includes whether your voter registration active or inactive, party affiliation, the ward and division in which your are registered and the address of your polling place.

Can I still vote by mail?

The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is this Tuesday, May 9. You can access the application here.

When you receive your mail-in ballot, make sure to fill out the front and back of each page and then seal everything inside the inner secrecy envelope. It will say "official election ballot" on the outside, and you cannot write on it or make any marks. If your ballot is not returned in a sealed secrecy envelope, it will not be counted.

MORE: Philly's ballot question guide: Should the city save more for a rainy day?

The secrecy envelope goes inside the pre-addressed outer return envelope. That one you can — and should — mark. Sign and date it in the designated voter declaration spot. A ballot in an unsigned outer return envelope also will not be counted.

Once that's completed, all you have to do is submit the ballot.

What is the deadline for returning mail-in ballots?

The Board of Elections must receive mail-in ballots by 8 p.m. on Election Day, which is Tuesday, May 16. That means you'll have to postmark it at least a few days prior, if using the U.S. Postal Service. With Election Day getting close, the best option may be to bring it to the board of elections office at City Hall or deposit it in a designated drop box. All drop boxes will be locked at 8 p.m. on May 16.

A mail-on ballot cannot be cast by returning it to your designated polling place on Election Day.

Where are the mail-in ballot drop boxes?

There are 18 drop boxes spread throughout the city, mainly at rec centers, libraries or playgrounds. Those locations are pinned in the map below:

How I track my mail-in ballot?

Yes, you'll just have to fill out this form with your name, county and date of birth.

How do I vote on Election Day?

Polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, May 16, and close at 8 p.m. that evening.  If you have voted at your current polling place before, you don't need to bring an ID. But if you haven't, you'll need to show identification to the poll workers to receive your ballot. Acceptable forms of identification include a driver's license or state ID, a passport, a voter registration card issued by the county voter registration office, a military or student ID, a utility bill including your name and address, an employee ID or a firearm permit.

If you decide to vote in person at your polling place after requesting a mail-in ballot, you must bring your mail-ballot and voter's declaration envelop with you to be surrendered. If you do not bring your mail-in ballot to be spoiled at your polling place, you will need to complete a provisional ballot. The Philadelphia Commissioners have more information about this process on their website.

What do I do if something wrong with my registration?

If poll workers cannot confirm your eligibility to vote, or if you decide to vote in person after a receiving a mail in ballot but show up to your voting precinct and don't bring your mail-in ballot to be surrendered, you will be asked to cast a provisional ballot. You will also receive a provisional ballot if the poll workers cannot find you in the poll books — this can happen if you did not report a recent change in address, or you go to the wrong precinct. Any issues confirming identity will also result in a voter being instructed to cast a provisional ballot.

You will have to fill out a few sections of the provisional ballot in front of poll workers — namely, the spots labeled Voter Information, Voter Affidavit for Provisional Ballot and Current Address. You can then choose your candidates in private. Your ballot will be sealed in a secrecy envelope, which will in turn be sealed in the provisional ballot affidavit envelope. You'll sign that in front of a poll worker and return it, completing the process. Just don't forget to grab your receipt. All provisional ballots are counted once their validity is determined.

The status of a provisional ballot can tracked on the state department's voter services website.

Where is my polling place?

Voters anywhere in Pennsylvania can find the addresses of their polling places by entering their information into the registration status page of the Pennsylvania Voter Services. Philadelphia residents also can find their polling places using this searchable map created by the city. After entering your address, the map will show the proximity of the polling place to you residence, and the results page includes a link that allows you to preview your ballot.

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