First, you yourself must request a ballot.By Jon Delano

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Allegheny County has sent 70,000 ballots out in the mail and says it already has another 316,000 ballot applications to process.

That number is likely to grow in the weeks ahead.

Political editor Jon Delano takes a closer look at the dos and don’ts of voting by mail. It’s called no-excuse absentee voting, and this is the first year all Pennsylvania voters can vote by mail. But to prevent fraud, there are certain rules you must follow.

“There is a lot of confusion for the voters,” says Melanie Ostrander, elections director for Washington County and a local expert on voting.

Here’s what you need to know. First, you yourself must request a ballot.

“We do not automatically mail out any ballot unless the voter has requested by application,” said Ostrander.

Do that online at Votespa.com or mail a paper application to your county elections bureau by Oct. 27. The earlier the better, officials say.

Are you concerned whether your county elections bureau has received your application or your completed ballot?

“You can visit Votespa.com, and you can check the status of your ballot to see whether it’s been mailed or received,” says Ostrander.

Be sure to return both the inside and outside envelopes your county sends to you.

“Please make sure you place your ballot in the secrecy envelope before placing it in the return declaration envelope because if it is not in the secrecy envelope, in Pennsylvania, we will not be able to count your ballot,” says Ostrander.

Instead of mailing, you can drop your ballot off at your county elections bureau, but “only the person the ballot belongs to can return their own ballot.”

Delano: You cannot do it for your spouse, for example?

Ostrander: Correct.

Suppose you get a mail-in ballot, can you then decide to vote in person?

“You can go to the polls and vote if you take your blank ballot, along with your return declaration envelope and surrender it, you can vote in person,” said Ostrander.

You can also vote in person ahead of time at your county elections bureau.

Allegheny County has eight additional satellite offices, in addition to the County Office Building downtown, for both early voting and dropping off your ballots.

For Pennsylvania election information and to apply for a mail-in ballot, click here.

While state law governs the basic rules, elections are conducted by election bureaus in each county. Below is the link to some of the regional bureaus.

Allegheny County

Armstrong County

Beaver County

Butler County

Fayette County

Greene County

Indiana County

Lawrence County

Washington County

Westmoreland County