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City and county election officials caution that the state website may be out of date because tens of thousands of recent registration forms are still being processed. 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.
The deadline for voter registration is midnight Tuesday, Oct. 9. Voter application forms must be postmarked by midnight or, for Philadelphia residents, submitted in person to the City Commissioners' office at Delaware Avenue and Spring Garden Street, which plans to stay open until midnight to handle applications.
Voter registration forms may be obtained at post offices, public libraries, state liquor stores, and many government offices. All citizens who expect to be 18 by Nov. 6 are eligible to register.
Uncertain of your current voting status? A state website, www.votesPA.com, offers a quick way to look it up for those providing their first and last names, county, and birthdate.
Because thousands of applications are being processed, county election boards are also willing to look up the status of voters who telephone.
Philadelphia: 215-686-1500 or -1590.
Bucks County: 215-348-6154, or www.buckscounty.org.
Chester County: 610-344-6410.
Delaware County: 610-891-4659.
Montgomery County: 610-278-3275, or www.montcopa.org.
Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or firstname.lastname@example.org.