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Texas bill: A step towards better voter ID education, greater transparency
04/24/17 |
Publication Date: 
Monday, April 24, 2017 - 12:00

The state has a responsibility to educate the public about voter identification requirements under SB 14, the voter ID law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011. In July 2016, the state was also ordered by a federal court to engage in a $2.5 million voter ID education campaign as part of an interim remedy agreement. Despite evidence that the 2016 voter ID education campaign was not entirely successful, the state has not been forthcoming with details about the plan.

HB 3328 seeks to increase government transparency in the interest of improving voter ID education efforts by making information related to public spending on voter ID education public information subject to disclosure under the Public Information Act. The exceptions described in Sections 552.101 and 552.103 of the Government Code would no longer apply to such information.

Recent rulings that Texas' voting laws discriminate put pressure on the state, but the road ahead is long
04/24/17 |
Publication Date: 
Monday, April 24, 2017 - 01:00

Lawmakers are trying to pass a bill to address the discriminatory issues found with the voter ID law. But Democrats say it falls short of meeting the standards that a district court set last year.

Plaintiffs want District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi to consider throwing out the law after the legislative session and returning the state to the federal government's "pre-clearance" list.

But even if that happened, the Texas attorney general's office would almost certainly challenge the decision in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. ...

The parties in the [redistricting] case are set to meet in San Antonio on Thursday. The three-judge panel will hear updates on whether a trial is needed and what a timeline for the rest of the case might look like.

But the panel has moved slowly and methodically throughout the case for over six years. It is unlikely to grant the plaintiffs' requests — for new congressional maps for the 2018 elections and federal oversight — before tackling other remaining issues, such as whether the 2013 interim maps were also discriminatory.

And even if the court sided with the plaintiffs in a trial and struck down the maps, Texas could appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court — dragging out the case even longer.

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Pennsylvania Election Info

Upcoming Elections in Your State

2016 General Election: November 8, 2016

Voter Registration Deadline: October 11, 2016

*If you send your registration in by mail, the postmark must be on or by the deadline.

Election Day:

Voting Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Early voting is not available in Pennsylvania.

How to Find Your Polling Place:

Visit the Department of State’s website at:


Already registered? Verify your voter registration status.

Registration Deadlines:

You must register 30 days before the election. The General Election Registration Deadline is October 11, 2016. If you send your registration in by mail, the postmark must be on or by the deadline.

How to Check Your Registration: or call 866-OUR-VOTE.

Registration Eligibility: You can register to vote in Pennsylvania if you are: (1) a citizen of the United States for at least one month before the election; (2) at least 17 years old and will be 18 years old by the next election; and (3) a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and your election district for at least 30 days prior to the election.

How to Register:

You can register to vote online. Note that if you do not have a driver’s license or state ID card, you will be asked to upload a photo of your signature with your application. If that doesn’t work for you, you can fill in your information online and download your filled-out registration form, which you will need to print, sign and mail to your county elections office. For more information on registration, visit the Office of Elections Voter Registration page ( This web page also includes other information on registration, such as locations where you can register in person.

Identification Required for Registration:

Generally, identification is not needed to register to vote in Pennsylvania.  However, the registration form requires an applicant’s Pennsylvania driver’s license number, PennDOT identification number or the last four digits of the applicant's social security number.  If an applicant does not have one of these, he or she may check the “I do not have a PA driver’s license or PennDOT ID card of a Social Security number” box at the end of the identification section of the registration form.

If You Want to Vote Early

There is no in-person early voting offered in Pennsylvania.

If You Want to Vote Absentee

The following registered voters are eligible for an absentee ballot, which will be mailed to them:

  1. A person who is or may be in the military service of the United States, regardless of whether at the time of voting the person is present in the election district of residence or in Pennsylvania and regardless of whether he or she is registered to vote
  2. A spouse or dependent residing with or accompanying a person in the military service of the United States and who expects on Election Day to be absent from his or her municipality of residence during the entire period in which the polling places are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
  3. A member of the Merchant Marine and his/her spouse and dependents residing with or accompanying the Merchant Marine, who expect on Election Day to be absent from Pennsylvania or the municipality of residence during the entire period in which the polling places are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
  4. A member of a religious or welfare group attached to and serving with the armed forces and his/her spouse and dependents residing with or accompanying him or her, who expect on Election Day to be absent from Pennsylvania or the municipality of residence during the entire period in which the polling places are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
  5. An individual who, because of the elector’s duties, occupation or business (including leaves of absence for teaching, vacations and sabbatical leaves), expects on Election Day to be absent from his/her municipality of residence during the entire period the polls are open for voting and the spouse and dependents of such electors who are residing with or accompanying the elector and for that reason also expect to be absent from his/her municipality during the entire period the polls are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
  6. A qualified war veteran elector who is bedridden or hospitalized due to illness or physical disability if the elector is absent from the municipality of his residence and unable to attend his/her polling place because of such illness or disability, regardless of whether the elector is registered to vote
  7. A person who, because of illness or physical disability, is unable to go to his/her polling place or to operate a voting machine and obtain assistance by distinct and audible statements (Note: A voter with a disability may be placed on a permanently disabled absentee file and receive an absentee ballot by mail in subsequent elections.)
  8. A spouse or dependent accompanying a person employed by Pennsylvania or the federal government, in the event that the employee’s duties, occupation or business on Election Day require him/her to be absent from Pennsylvania or the municipality of residence during the entire period the polls are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
  9. A county employee who expects that his Election Day duties relating to the conduct of the election will prevent the employee from voting
  10. A person who will not attend a polling place on Election Day because of the observance of a religious holiday.

Applying for an Absentee Ballot - The regular deadline for the County Board of Elections to receive your completed application for absentee ballot is 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 1 (the Tuesday before the election).  The County Board of Elections will send you a paper absentee ballot. However, there are emergency provisions after that time (see below).

Returning the Ballot. You must complete your ballot and submit it to the County Board of Elections, which must receive the ballot before 5 p.m. on Friday, November 4 (the Friday before Election Day).  However, in presidential elections, absentee ballots received before 8 p.m. on Election Day will be counted for the offices of the president and the vice president.

Identification. When applying for an absentee ballot, you must provide your driver’s license number, last 4 digits of your Social Security Number, or a copy of an acceptable photo ID (see list below).  If needed, you have six days following an election to provide the necessary identification.  (Note: Voters who are entitled to vote under the Uniformed Military and Overseas Voters Act or by alternative ballot under the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act are exempt from this ID requirement.)

Acceptable forms of photo ID include the following:

  • U.S. Passport
  • U.S. Military ID
  • Employee photo ID issued by federal, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania County, or Pennsylvania Municipal government
  • Photo ID issued by an accredited Pennsylvania public or private instituation of higher learning
  • Photo ID issued by a Pennsylvania care facility, including long-term care facilities, assisted-living residences, and personal-care homes.

In case of a voter’s emergency: If you have not requested an absentee ballot but have an emergency and are unable to go to the polls, you may submit a notarized Emergency Absentee Ballot Application to the County Board of Elections between 5:00 p.m. on the Tuesday before Election Day and 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day.  Given the short window between filing the application and when the ballot must be submitted, the voter may want to consider designating another person to pick up and/or drop off her or his ballot with the County Board of elections, which can be done by filling out this form and having your representative complete this form.

If the emergency occurs between 5:00 p.m. the Friday before Election Day and 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, the voter may complete and file an emergency application (or letter/other signed document that includes the same information as that provided on the emergency application) with the Court of Common Pleas in the county where he or she is registered to vote.  If the voter cannot appear in court, he or she may designate in writing an individual who may obtain an Emergency Absentee Ballot from the Court of Common Pleas and then return it to the County Board of Elections no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. You may want to confirm with the local election office or the court what the procedure and location are for this.

Identification Requirements to Cast a Ballot

Most voters do not need to show ID to vote. Only voters voting in an election district for the first time must provide one of the following forms of photo identification:

  • Pennsylvania driver’s license or PennDOT ID Card
  • ID issued by any Commonwealth agency
  • ID issued by the U.S. Government
  • U.S. Passport
  • U.S. Armed Forces ID
  • Student ID with photograph
  • Employee ID with photograph

If you do not have any of these forms of photo identification, you can provide the following documents if they contain your name and current address:

  • Confirmation of residence issued by the County Voter Registration Office;
  • Non-photo ID issued by the Commonwealth;
  • Non-photo ID issued by the U.S. Government;
  • Firearm permit;
  • Current utility bill;
  • Current bank statement;
  • Current paycheck; or
  • Government check.

If you have registered and voted in the same election district before, you do not need to show identification to vote.  You simply need to sign your name, which will then be compared with the signature in the district register.

VoteRiders has created Pennsylvania voter ID info cards in English and in Spanish.

If you moved at least 30 days before an election you must change your voter registration address by submitting a new voter registration form—either online or by mail. Simply select the option for “Change of Address.”  Note that in order to vote at your new precinct’s polling place, this registration form must be submitted by the voter registration deadline.  If you missed the deadline and moved within the state, though, you can still vote at your old polling place (see below).

If you moved less than 30 days before an election you must vote at your former residence's polling location.  When you arrive to vote, tell the local Election Official of your change of address so that you can vote correctly at your new address in the future.

If you have moved more than 30 days before an election but did not change your address with Voter Registration Officials, you must vote at the polling place of your old residence, where you are registered to vote.  However, you may only vote once at the original polling place and you must abide by special procedures, called “fail-safe voting.”  These procedures include:

  1. If you have moved within the same county, inform the Election Officials at the polling place that you have moved and would like to change your registration by filling out an affirmation that states your new address;
  2. You will be permitted to vote at the old polling place based on your previous residence, but the county will update its records after the election to reflect your new address;
  3. You will receive a new voter certification card in the mail that will show your new address and polling place; and
  4. You will not be able to vote again at your old polling place (unless, of course, it also serves as your new residence).

Military and overseas citizens can use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), also known as Standard Form 76, to register to vote and to request an absentee ballot. Visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) Pennsylvania specific page ( with deadlines and other information, services and forms for military and overseas voters.

Alternatively, to register to vote, military and overseas citizens can email to request a voter registration application, and to receive an absentee ballot application, military and overseas citizens can email Writing to either email address will result in the FPCA being sent to you. 

Military and overseas citizens can send and receive voting materials by email.  If you wish to use the email option, you must indicate this on your FPCA. 

Military and overseas citizens voting by absentee ballot must have their ballots postmarked on or before the day before Election Day, or if returned electronically then by 11:59 p.m. on the day before Election Day.  The county elections office must receive your ballot by 5 p.m. on the 7th day after the election.

Military and overseas citizens can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) if they are concerned about receiving their printed ballot in time to return the ballot by the deadline.  The FWAB is a blank ballot on which voters write in their choices.

Military and overseas citizens can also use the FWAB to register to vote and to apply for the absentee ballot, all in one step.  Please note that FWAB voter registrations must be received by the voter registration deadline.  For specific instructions, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s Pennsylvania-specific page ( or email the Pennsylvania Department of State at

If you are incarcerated on Election Day as a result of felony conviction, you are not entitled to vote. Your voting rights are automatically restored upon release from incarceration (that is, not in prison). Voters with misdemeanor convictions or on probation are always eligible to vote, and individuals in pre-trial detention may vote via absentee ballot.  However, if a voter was incarcerated for a felony, they will need to re-register to vote before the October 11, 2016 registration deadline.


Top Issues to Field 

For more information for voters with disabilities, find a National Disability Rights Network partner in your area.

For more information for student voters, visit the Student Voting Guide from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Information provided by Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights

Voting as a Student

As a student, you have a constitutional right to register and vote in the place you truly consider to be “home” — whether that’s your parents’ house, your apartment, or your dorm room. But before you make the important decision about where to vote, make sure you know the voting rules (and sometimes consequences) of registering to vote in that state.

More Info On Student Voting

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Election Information for your state