If you want to vote in the general election on November 8, you must register by Tuesday, October 11. That’s next week. In a general election, the voters choose the candidates who will hold the offices that are open for election. If you were registered for previous elections, you do not need to register again.
There are no federal elections in odd-numbered years. This year, Pennsylvania voters will choose judges in the Superior, Commonwealth, and Common Pleas courts, as well as local magistrates. In Allegheny County, the Executive, Controller, District Attorney, Treasurer, and Council seats are up for election. Municipal offices are also up for consideration, including many city, borough and township mayors, councilors, commissioners, and supervisors. School Board director seats, tax collectors, and some other offices are also open.
Local elections don’t carry nearly as much drama as federal and state contests, but are no less important. These are the people who are responsible for managing our local parks, streets, schools, and police departments. As Tip O’Neill said, “All politics are local.”
After you register, REMEMBER TO VOTE! Don’t worry about the new voting machines. If you can work an automatic banking machine or a TV remote controller, you can work a voting machine. If you’re nervous about it, there is more information and a demonstration on the Allegheny County Elections Division website. The site can also help you locate your polling place and the workers can help you at the polling place on Election Day.
If you don’t know for whom you should vote, now is the time to do some research. In my experience, television commercials and campaign literature are practically useless in giving information. Advertisers design them to make you remember and feel good about the candidate. You can visit the candidates’ own websites, attend campaign events like rallies and town meetings, and read in-depth news coverage and voters’ guides. In the end, vote for the candidates who reflect your views most closely. No single candidate will be perfect, but you know what’s important to you.
It is illegal for anyone to keep you from voting. You cannot be fired from your job or evicted from your home, for voting. No one can tell you how to vote. If you can’t get to the polling place on Election Day, you can get an absentee ballot, but don’t wait too long. November 1 is the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot, and completed ballots must be returned by November 4 at 5:00 PM.
You can find more information about voting and some of the issues from the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh, Community Information Center. An excellent guide is available online at votespa.com. Click on the “Guide for New Citizens”.
A summary of the voter registration rules
WHO: In order to register, you must:
- Be a US citizen for 30 days or more on election day
- Be at least 18 years old on election day
- Be a resident of Pennsylvania, and your election district, for at least 30 days on election day
¬ You do not have to have a residence to register to vote. You can be homeless, but you must have a mailing address.
¬ You may be able to vote if you have a criminal record. Go to votespa.com for details.
- In order to vote in a primary election (in May of each year) you must register in a political party.
- You do not have to register in a party to vote in the general election (held in November).
- You can change your party registration any time you wish.
- Even if you haven’t voted recently, you are still registered. Call the Election Division or check VotesPA to be sure.
- If you moved, changed your name, or want to change your political party, you must register again.
WHERE: The Allegheny County Election Division office is located in the County Office Building.
542 Forbes Avenue, Room 604, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 (Downtown)
Phone: (412) 350-4500, Fax: (412) 350-5697
October 11, 2011 Registration forms must be in the Elections Division office, or postmarked, for the November 8 General Election
November 1, 2011 Last day to apply for a civilian absentee ballot for the November 8 General Election
November 4, 2011 Last day for County Board of Elections to receive completed absentee ballots
HOW: Registration forms are available in several places:
- Allegheny County Elections Division office, 604 County Office Building, Downtown
- Many state and local government offices
- Most state and local legislators’ offices
- Many public libraries, community agencies, and state liquor stores
¬ You can also find the form online at the Pennsylvania Department of State. You can download, print, complete, sign, and mail the form to the address below. It must be postmarked by the registration deadline. Return the completed form to:
Voter Registration Section
Allegheny County Division of Elections
542 Forbes Ave., Room 609
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-2953
¬ You can get absentee ballot applications at your County Election Bureau office or at votespa.com
For More Information: