By Addy Lord
Every state can have different requirements for voting with a criminal record, which can make it confusing to fully understand voting rights in Pennsylvania. Fortunately, Pennsylvania law does allow for most citizens with a criminal record to vote.
According to Pennsylvania law, a citizen may register and vote if they are:
Awaiting trial for either a misdemeanor or felony conviction, whether they are incarcerated or at home
Incarcerated with a misdemeanor conviction
On probation or released on parole, including residing in a halfway house after a felony or misdemeanor conviction
Under house arrest (home confinement) for either a felony or misdemeanor conviction
And a citizen may not register or vote if they:
Are serving a sentence for a felony conviction in prison or jail
Are under pre-release status while residing at a halfway house for a felony conviction
Were convicted for violating election laws within the last four years
Citizens who have a misdemeanor or felony on their criminal record, and who live outside of prison may vote in person at their polling place, or they may request a mail-in ballot with a form through the Department of State Website or by calling and requesting a form.
Voter registration forms and mail-in ballot applications may be sent to eligible voters who are currently incarcerated. If they reside in a state prison, the forms will be scanned and processed digitally, through the Florida address. The Pennsylvania Department of State will also send a ballot application when contacted by phone at 1-877-868-3772.
Institutions are not universally required to proactively provide forms, though some will provide them upon request. An individual eligible to vote while incarcerated should use their last known address for their registration, and may only use the prison, jail or halfway house address to receive election mail. Official mail may be sent directly to the state prison. The address is found on the correctional facility website.
The last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania for the 2022 General Election is Tuesday, October 24, and the last day to apply for a mail-in ballot is Tuesday, November 1. Mail-in ballots must be received by the county elections office by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8. To ensure a mail-in ballot arrives in time, voters are advised to mail it by November 1 or hand delivered it to the election office by November 8.
The Pennsylvania Department of State has printable forms and more detailed information at www.vote.pa.gov or 1-877-868-3772.
If you have any trouble finding the resources you need, you can seek help from:
The Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) at 412-212-8775 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The League of Women Voters of Pittsburgh at 412-261-4284 or email@example.com
The 15th Ward Democratic Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or pgh15warddems.com. The 15th Ward Democratic Committee will assist any voter regardless of their party affiliation.
Addy Lord is vice-chair of the 15th Ward Democratic committee.