HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) - So far, more than 1.4 million Pennsylvanians have requested a mail-in or absentee ballot, with over 900,000 already returned. 

Having some familiarity helps with voting by mail, especially if it’s your first time. Completing and returning your mail ballot can be done in just a few easy steps.  

If you applied for a mail ballot before today’s 5 p.m. deadline, then you will, or already have received an official election ballot in the mail. Upon opening the envelope, you’ll find four additional materials: a ballot; a yellow envelope that reads “Official Election Ballot,” more commonly known as the inner secrecy envelope; a white return envelope addressed to your county board of elections, and lastly instructions to ensure your ballot is counted. 

Start by reading the instructions and then proceed to fill out your ballot using a black pen or marker. Once you’ve selected your candidates, place the completed ballot in the yellow inner secrecy envelope. Ensure the secrecy envelope is sealed before placing it into the white, pre-addressed return envelope. After sealing the return envelope, voters must sign and date the envelope, this is known as the Voter’s declaration. Under Pennsylvania election law, a handwritten signature and date are required for a ballot to be counted. 

If a voter is unable to sign and date their ballot due to illness or disability, a witness must help the voter mark the ballot, and then the witness must write the date, their address, and then provide a signature. 

Earlier today, Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman, urged voters to return their mail ballot in person with just seven days until the election. 

“It’s time to return your mail ballot to ensure it arrives by the deadline of 8 p.m. on Election Day. Do not wait until the last minute,” said Chapman during a press conference. “Hand deliver your mail ballot now to your county election office or authorized drop-off location to be certain your vote will be counted,” she added. 

Chapman recommends mail voters drop their ballot off at their county election office or their county’s drop box, if one is offered. Additionally, voters can find out if their county has a satellite election office where they can drop off their ballot. 

According to the Department of State, voters who applied for and received a mail ballot and then decide they want to vote at the polls must bring their mail ballot packet with them to be voided, including the pre-addressed outer return envelope with the voter’s declaration. 

If you lose your ballot or make a mistake, you should contact your county elections office as soon as possible. The Department of State has several resources to help you correctly fill out and return your ballot to ensure it counts.  

Voters also have the option of voting their mail ballot in person at their county election office through 5 p.m. today. 

Mail ballots must be received by county election officials by 8 p.m. on Nov. 8. You can track your ballot at vote.pa.gov/MailBallotStatus.