If you are under 18, have never registered to vote in Pennsylvania, or are currently serving time for a felony, you can't vote. Otherwise, you can vote on Nov. 2, even if you recently moved and didn't reregister, haven't voted in years, don't have a Certificate of Voter Registration and just got out of jail. The rules have changed, though. Here's a how-to that you can bring to the polls to ensure that your rights are respected.
Where do I vote? Vote at the polling place listed on your Certificate of Voter Registration, commonly called a voter card. If you don't have a card, and don't know where to vote, ask the county Elections Division at 412-350-4500. You can also try a Web site by local young peoples' organization, www.everybodyvote.com; enter your address, and it will identify your polling place, the group says. If you moved and didn't inform the Elections Division, vote at your old polling place and tell the elections officials your new address.
What should I bring? If you've got a voter card, bring it. If not, bring some other form of ID if it's your first time voting at your polling place. Acceptable ID includes: 1) a photo driver's license; 2) any ID issued by the U.S. or state government or the armed forces with either your photo or your address; 3) a passport; 4) student or employee photo ID; 5) a firearm permit; 6) a current bank statement, utility bill or paycheck that includes your name and address; 7) a government check that includes your name and address.
What if I go to the polls and am told that I'm an inactive voter? If you haven't responded to Elections Division address checks, you may be asked to fill out a form affirming your address. Then you should be allowed to vote.
What if my name isn't on the list at the polling place? The elections officials should call the Elections Division to check your status. If that doesn't clear things up, you have the right to fill out a provisional ballot, discussed below.
What if I believe I am registered to vote, but the elections officials disagree? You have the right to fill out a paper provisional ballot. By Nov. 5, the County Board of Elections must determine whether you were eligible to vote, and if so, count your vote. The choices of provisional voters are kept confidential. Keep your provisional ballot receipt, and call 1-877-VOTES-PA after Nov. 5 to determine whether your provisional vote was counted, and if not, why not.
What should I watch out for if I have to fill out a provisional ballot? Don't vote for more than one candidate for any office, because neither vote will be counted. Either vote straight party or choose individual candidates -- if you do both, your votes won't be counted. If you mess up, you have the right to trade in your bad ballot for a new one. But once your ballot is sealed and cast, you're done.
What if I need help voting?
You can fill out a Declaration of the Need for Assistance at the polling place and bring a helper into the booth, as long as they're not the elections judge, or an agent of your employer or your union.
What if I want to vote in Spanish? Go to www.votespa.com or call 412-350-4500 for information on Spanish-language voting.
What if, try as I might, they won't let me vote? Call the state at 1-877-VOTES-PA. The hotline for Election Protection 2004, a project of numerous civil rights groups, is 1-866-OUR-VOTE. City Paper's election news line is 412-316-3342, x.166.