What’s a Naked Ballot?

What’s a Naked Ballot?
October 12, 2020
By Democracy Docket

If you’re a Pennsylvania voter, you’ve likely been hearing a lot about “naked ballots.”

So what are they? Naked ballots are essentially completed ballots that have been placed directly into a return envelope and are missing a secrecy envelope.

Why are people talking about them? “Naked ballots” have garnered quite a bit of attention because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently declared that ballots returned without a secrecy envelope are invalid, and therefore counties will reject them.

To better understand the issue and ensure that your ballot is counted, let’s talk about what you’re receiving in your mail-in or absentee ballot package:

  • You’ll likely receive an instructional pamphlet, which you should read closely;
  • You’ll see the actual ballot where you will vote on candidates and ballot questions;
  • You’ll have a white secrecy envelope, which may have the words “Official Election Ballot” printed on it; and
  • You’ll have a larger, pre-addressed outer return envelope that requires you to read, complete, sign, and date a voter declaration.

How do I make sure my ballot isn’t “naked”? You must complete your ballot and insert it into the smaller, white secrecy envelope. This is what Pennsylvania considers to be the “clothes” for your ballot. Then you place this “clothed” ballot into the pre-addressed outer envelope. If you do not place your ballot into that smaller, white envelope, the state will consider your ballot “naked” and it will be rejected.

Once you’ve placed your clothed ballot into the larger return envelope, you’ll read, complete, sign, and date the declaration, and then you’re ready to go! Simply drop in the mail or bring to a post office as soon as possible, or hand deliver to your local election board’s designated drop-off location before 8:00 p.m. on November 3. Visit votespa.com to see a list of ballot return locations.

Please remember to “clothe” your ballot and vote early!



“Voting Process Explained” is a multi-part series that will cover the basics of voting in America. Each article in the series takes voters through a different part of the voting process, how it varies by state and what voters need to know for November.