2018 midterm election: What to know before voting in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware
Here are important election dates and what to expect when you get to your polling place.
Are you ready to vote in the upcoming midterm election? The important day is coming up next month but you might have a few questions before you get to the polls.
Here's information about the important dates you'll want to mark down in your calendar and what to expect when you get to your polling place.
What are the midterm elections? When are they?
Where do I vote? What are my polling place’s hours?
Polling places can change, so be sure to check where you're going ahead of time.
What do I do if I’m having problems at the polls?
Campaign materials being handed out a little too close for comfort? A broken voting machine? You can report that. Voter intimidation, coercion, threats, and anything else that hinders a person from voting fairly is considered a civil rights violation of federal election law, according to the U.S. government's explanation of voting and election laws.
You can report problems through the Department of Justice's election complaint report site or by contacting your state or local election office.
In Pennsylvania, you can report election complaints to the Department of State through an online form or by phone at 1-877-VOTESPA. The Philadelphia City Commissioners has a list of go-to numbers to contact if you're experiencing things like voter machine or polling place issues. Contact information for other election offices throughout Pennsylvania can be found through the Votes PA website.
New Jersey's Division of Elections' voting information and assistance number is 1-877-NJ-VOTER. Contact information for each county's election office can be found on the Department of State's website.
Delaware's Office of the State Election Commissioner explains how to submit a formal complaint on its website, which includes getting the complaint notarized before it is sent to the commissioner's office or a county election office.
Contact information for Delaware's Department of Elections, State Election Commissioner and county-by-county elections offices can be found on the state's website.
Do I need an ID to vote?
In Pennsylvania, you only have to show your ID if it's your first time voting in that precinct.
The New Jersey Department of State says you may be asked to show ID if you didn't provide it while registering to vote or if there was information that couldn't be verified. That ID could range from a driver's license to a utility bill.
Delaware voters do not need to show ID, but will be asked to show a form of identity that could range from a driver's license to signed Social Security card, according to the state's website. Those who don't show ID will have to fill out a form before being able to cast a ballot.
A state-by-state breakdown of voter identification laws can be found on the National Conference of State Legislatures' website.
Does it matter whether I’m affiliated with a party?
No. That only matters for primary elections. Pennsylvania and Delaware are both closed primary states, which means you can vote under the party you affiliated with when you registered to vote. New Jersey is also considered a closed primary state, but unaffiliated voters can declare a party and vote for that party's nominees in a primary election.
Contrary to the primary, all voters can cast ballots in a general election like the upcoming Nov. 6 midterm.
Who will be on my ballot?
The Inquirer and Daily News have an interactive midterm guide for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware voters. Just enter your address to find the list of candidates who will appear on your ballot.
Can I vote absentee?
If you're voting absentee or through mail in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Delaware, you'll first want to make sure you're registered to vote by your state's deadline. From there, Pennsylvania voters have until Oct. 30 to apply for an absentee ballot, while New Jersey voters will need to make sure their county clerk gets their "application for vote by mail ballot" seven days ahead of election day. Delaware voters have until Nov. 2 to request an absentee ballot.
Some Pennsylvania voters who live outside the country, however, have been blocked from accessing absentee ballots on the state's website. Overseas voters who can't access the site can contact the Pennsylvania Department of State's Help Desk by calling 1-866-472-7873 or emailing STSVCSURE_Helpdesk@pa.gov.
How do I cast a write-in vote?
If you have a candidate in mind whose name doesn't appear on your official ballot, choosing to write in the candidate's name could be an option. But not all states are created equally in the write-in voting process.
Eight states don't allow write-in votes at all, while more than three dozen require candidates to fill out some paperwork to be considered an "official write-in," according to a report from the Washington Post published ahead of the 2016 presidential election. On its website, the state of Delaware outlines that potential candidates must fill out a "write-in candidate declaration."
Luckily, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are two states that allow voters to name anyone as a write-in candidate — in fact, that's pretty much how Phillip Garcia of Manayunk became an election overseer with a single write-in vote in November 2017.
Former deputy city commissioner Tracey Gordon demonstrates how to cast a write-in vote in Philadelphia in the video below.
Sample ballots for Camden County show that those who wish to cast a write-in vote are instructed to use a keyboard to type out the candidate's name.
What are my voting rights?
As a registered voter, you have rights protected under federal and state laws. When you walk into your polling place — or if you're mailing that ballot in — you are entitled to be able to make your decision free from harassment and intimidation, no matter your race, color, or creed. If you have a disability, you're entitled to fair access.
Pennsylvania has a guide on its Votes PA website outlining all your rights as a voter, from language to disability rights. Pennsylvania polling places need at least one accessible voting system, according to Votes PA but if that's not the case, you are able to choose someone to come with you into the booth.
New Jersey's "Voters' Bill of Rights," available in multiple languages, outlines everything from ID requirements to what you might see in polling places as a first-time voter. Further voting rights, from accessibility rights for those with disabilities to rights for ex-felons, can be found on the Department of State's website.
Delaware's state election laws can be found on the Office of the State Election Commissioner's website. Delaware also requires handicap-accessible polling places and will provide additional assistance by request.
What is the deadline to register to vote?
None of this will matter if you're not already registered to vote. Oct. 9, Oct. 16 and Oct. 13 are the deadlines to register in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, respectively.