Voter Information

Image from the 2014 NSLVE report on student registration and voting at Swarthmore College. Read the full report [PDF].


Please explore all of the content below as the rules for registration and voting are somewhat more complicated than you might think.


Deadlines to register to vote can range from 7 to 30 days before the election, depending on which state you register in. 


In the 2014 midterm election, only 16.9% of eligible Swarthmore students voted. Learn more about Swarthmore's student voting rates.


In February 2018, Swarthmore President Valerie Smith called for the creation of a committee to increase student participation in our democracy through voter registration and voting in all primary and general elections. 

The Voter Registration/Get Out the Vote Steering Committee was called to action in part in response to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). The 2014 midterm election report [PDF] and 2016 presidential election report [PDF] both showed that while a majority of eligible Swarthmore students register to vote, their turnout at the polls has been below the national average for colleges and universities. 

The committee, which includes faculty, staff, and student representatives, has developed an action plan [Google Doc] and is working to increase student voting rates in the 2018 midterm election and beyond. Our efforts are entirely nonpartisan. The 2018-19 committee members are:

Chair: Emily Weisgrau, Director of Advancement Communications
Andrew Barclay, Assistant Director of Student Activities and Leadership
Ben Berger, Associate Professor of Political Science and Executive Director, Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility
Jacob Demree ’19, Coordinator, Swarthmore Political Access Network
Ryan Dougherty, Senior Writer/Editor, Communications
David Foreman, Director of Institutional Relations
Mary Hasbrouck, Technology Coordinator, Facilities
Katie Price, Assistant Director for Co-Curricular Programming and Outreach, Lang Center
Simran Singh ’19, Lang Center Associate for Political Engagement & Public Policy
Isaiah Thomas, Assistant Director of Residential Communities
Rick Valelly, Claude C. Smith '14 Professor of Political Science
Martin Warner, Registrar

Vote here or back home?

You may choose to vote either in Swarthmore, Pa., or your home town - but not both. Before choosing Swarthmore, consider the following:

First, if you might ever need to prove consistent residency "intent." Intent is best demonstrated by keeping all your legal addresses, including those for voting, driver's license, etc., together as one for several years. Reasons to prove intent include eligibility for in-state graduate school tuition in your home state, or for taxation reasons if you own stocks and bonds or receive income from a trust, or from other investments. Otherwise, you can choose to have different legal addresses for different purposes, and most states, including Pennsylvania, do not prohibit you from having different legal addresses for driver's license and for voting, so long as you have only one for each.

Second, if you register to vote in Swarthmore, you may be called for jury duty at the courthouse in Media, PA at any time of the year, including summer months. Like voting, jury duty is an important way to exercise civic engagement; however, it may not always be feasible. You may request an exception due to academic studies or distance from campus, but students have had their requests denied in the past. 


To vote back home or by Absentee Ballot, follow the local voting rules for your home town or county. Ask for help from your city hall, or from your county court house. Much absentee ballot information is online, do a web search on your state and "absentee ballot". Find and read the information your state publishes on the subject. Pennsylvania Absentee ballot information is available online.

If "back home" is in PA, but is not Swarthmore...

  • If you want to vote back home elsewhere in PA, use absentee ballot procedure, and if you need to (re)register there, you can use your PA drivers license on the voter registration form.
  • If you want to vote in Swarthmore, use your dorm address on the voter registration form, and do not use your PA drivers license which says you live elsewhere.

Absentee Ballot Request deadlines vary from state to state and sometimes county by county. Check with your municipality or visit

Registration deadlines vary from state to state, but the norm is 30 days prior to the election.

It is illegal to vote in two or more districts. If you wish to vote in Swarthmore but have already registered in another municipality, register here and then write the other election bureau to inform them of your change.

Voting in Swarthmore

Already registered? Check registration status and voting location. Swarthmore is in "Delaware" county.

Registration: Use Dorm name for Address of Residence

NEW or Updated Registrations, Complete the form following these instructions:

  • In "ADDRESS OF RESIDENCE," if you live in College housing, for "street address" put your Residence Hall name (without room number), unless you live in Strath Haven, in which case you must use: “801 Yale Avenue" (don’t include your room number).
  • The “County” is Delaware and the “Municipality” is Swarthmore Borough.
  • In “Mailing address” put “500 College Avenue; Swarthmore; PA; 19081” if you live in College housing.
  • In the box "Address of Previous Registration" complete this if you are updating a PA registration, but if you are new to PA, leave these boxes blank.
  • In the box "Voter Identification Number" just leave this blank unless you know it. It is optional.
  • Signature: After hitting "submit" on the second page of the application, you will be prompted to provide a signature. If you don't have a PA drivers license, you can upload a phone photo of your signature (sign a piece of paper) edited so the signature fills the photo with just a little margin. Do NOT use a phone photo of another state's driver's license. Alternative to all this is print out the application and sign it and mail it in.
  • Complete the Pennsylvania Voter Registration form online

Delaware County Voter Registration Office
Phone: 610-891-4659
Govt Center Bldg
201 W Front St
Media PA 19063-2728

Voter registration mailer sent to you: First time or changing registrants receive a mailer card confirming their registration, address and voting place. It may take about 14 days to get the mailer. Getting the mailer also indicates that you are actually enrolled to vote at the voting place for that precinct. If you don't get a confirmation mailer card after 14 days of registration, or if you have another question specific to your attempt to register, please call the Delaware County Voter Registration Office at 610-891-4659. You can also check your voter registration status online to see if your registration is in the system.

Prepare to vote in Swarthmore

Check registration status and voting location. Swarthmore is in Delaware County.

Polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Lines are possible. Be patient. Lines are likely especially at times before and after traditional office hours, or around noon, when office workers come to vote. If you are in line prior to 8 p.m. you will be allowed to vote. Do not expect to vote if you arrive at the polling place after 8 p.m.

Van or walk? Rides will be available from Parrish Circle between Parrish and McCabe on election day, but all the voting locations are within easy walking distance from the College or from your residence hall. The Northern precinct is a 10 minute walk from Parrish; the Western precinct is a 20 minute walk from Parrish.

Bring your college ID: You must show ID if you are voting for the first time at your designated polling place. It is recommended that all students bring their college ID in case of any confusion at the polls. Do not use an out-of-state drivers license as voter ID. See the approved list.

Dress code: Many folks recommend you NOT wear printed messages on clothing (like a tee shirt or hat with political advertising) when you go to the voting place. Printed messages on clothing may or may not be technically legal (see PA "electioneering" laws), but wearing such clothing might also attract unwanted attention and slow you down.

Voter intimidation or challenge—be prepared: In years past, some Swarthmore students were challenged by other voters who questioned the authenticity of the students' Pennsylvania residence or registration. College students are indeed permitted to register to vote based on their residence at school (assuming they otherwise qualify to vote). In general, if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable about coming to vote, ignore them, or, if you wish, report them to an Election Judge. All voting places have non-partisan Election Judges who understand the rules and can defend your right to vote. In some cases, there may be a delay if the election judge needs to work through the Pennsylvania "challenge rules" process—in these cases, expect to provide valid Pennsylvania voter ID, such as the mailer card and/or your College ID, and otherwise cooperate with the Election Judge.

Just in case: The Provisional ballot. If you go to the voting place for which you are certain you are registered, but you are not on their list of registered voters, ask an official there for help. If no record of your registration can be found on that day, you should ask to vote a "provisional ballot", which you will be allowed to do at that voting place. Provisional ballots permit the county to research your registration. If your valid registration is found, your ballot will be counted. If no valid registration is found, your provisional ballot will NOT be counted and you will be informed by letter.

Where to vote in Swarthmore:

Check registration status and voting location. Swarthmore is in "Delaware" county.

Northern Precinct: Students who have registered to vote as residents of Dana, Danawell, Hallowell, Lodges, Mertz, Alice Paul, David Kemp, Parrish, Wharton, Willets, Whittier, Woolman, and Worth, and off-campus housing north of the tracks vote in the Northern Precinct, at the Swarthmore-Rutledge Elementary School (SRS) at 100 College Ave, Swarthmore. SRS is down the hill of College Ave, cross at the light and on down past the athletic fields on the right. This is a 5-10 minute walk from Parrish.

Western Precinct: Students who have registered to vote as residents of Mary Lyon, Palmer, Pittenger, Roberts, PPR Apts, and 801 Yale Ave. (StrathHaven), and off campus housing south of the tracks and mostly west of Route 320 vote in the Western Precinct, at the CADES building (Cerebral Palsy Assoc of Del Co) at 401 Rutgers Ave, Swarthmore. From campus, go down Rutgers Ave (starts next to the PNC Bank) crossing Harvard and then Yale, then up the next block and see the CADES building, on your left. This is a 15-20 minute walk from Parrish and a 10-15 minute walk from Mary Lyon.

Eastern Precinct: Students who have registered to vote as residents in off-campus housing south of the tracks and mostly east of 320, vote in the Eastern precinct at Borough Hall. This is in the same building as the Swarthmore Public Library, in the ville on Park Ave.