But longtime nonvoters, people who have moved into Pennsylvania from another state, moved inside Pennsylvania to a new address, or expect to reach age 18 by Election Day, Nov. 6, need to submit a voter-registration application to county election officials to establish their right to vote.
Voter-registration forms are available at public libraries, state liquor stores, post offices, and many government offices. They can also be downloaded from the state's voting website, www.votesPA.com, and county government websites. The forms must be filled out and postmarked by midnight Tuesday to be valid for the November election.
In addition, would-be voters can register in person or drop off their registration forms at county election boards throughout the state. In Philadelphia, that location is an office building at Delaware Avenue and Spring Garden Street, where the city commissioners' office plans to remain open until midnight to accommodate any procrastinators.
People who believe they are registered to vote can check their status on a state website, www.votesPA.com, clicking on "Register to Vote" and "Confirm Your Registration." They will be asked to provide their first and last names and date of birth.
City and county election officials caution that the state website may be out of date because tens of thousands of recent registration forms are still being processed, not yet loaded into the state's registration system. For that reason, they suggest that voters with questions about their registration status or options call county officials.
"If you haven't voted for more than five years, I would definitely call us up and ask," said Philadelphia's voting registration administrator, Greg Irving. "Better safe than sorry."
In Philadelphia, election offices can be reached by telephone at 215-686-1500 or 1590. In Bucks County, voters can call 215-348-6154 or check the county's website at www.buckscounty.org. In Chester County, the county election board can be reached at 610-344-6410, in Delaware County at 610-891-4659, and in Montgomery County, 610-278-3275, or www.montcopa.org, clicking on "Departments" and then "Voter Services."
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson Jr. ruled last week that registered voters will not be required to show photo ID cards in order to vote on Nov. 6. But the state's new law does require registrants to provide either a PennDot ID number or the last four digits of a Social Security number on their registration applications. These will provide verification data if the new voter applies for an absentee or alternative ballot.
And any voter showing up at a polling place where he or she hasn't voted previously will be required to show some form of ID - not necessarily a photo ID but a credit card statement, utility bill, or something else to document his name and address.
Statewide, voter-registration figures remain a moving target, because of the backlog of material still to be entered into Pennsylvania's computer system.
As of last week, the state counted 8,378,637 registered voters, the number still growing rapidly, compared with 8,755,588 registered voters in November 2008, the final figure eligible to vote on Election Day.
Democrats outnumber Republicans statewide by nearly 1.1 million registered voters, but among those who have voted within the last five years, the number is 935,690 and changing daily.
When voters went to the polls in November 2008, the Democratic edge over Republicans was 1,216,467 statewide.
The number of voters registering themselves as independent or from other parties is already 41,000 higher than four years ago and still climbing, at 1,074,607.
Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or firstname.lastname@example.org.