What's the difference between an 'absentee ballot' and a 'mail-in ballot' ?

You may hear the terms "absentee ballot" and "mail-in ballot" used frequently, and often interchangeably. So what is the difference, and which should you be applying for?

Before 2020, the Commonwealth of PA offered the ability to vote by mail, but only through what was known as an Absentee Ballot. In order to vote by Absentee Ballot, voters had to offer a valid excuse to vote by mail (out of the County on the day of the election, illness or physical disability, etc.). 

However, voters can now vote via a No-Excuse Absentee Ballot, which is now commonly just called a Mail-In Ballot, or voting by mail (VBM).

So which ballot should you request? Short answer: voters who plan to be out of the municipality on election day or have a disability or illness that prevents them from going to their polling place on election day can use the Absentee Ballot Application. Otherwise, you can use the Mail-In Ballot application.

However, even if you are going to be out of the County or have an illness, you can still request a No-Excuse Mail-In Ballot. For the time being, you can't go wrong requesting a Mail-In Ballot.