How Will Voting Work This Year? A Registrar Walks You Through The Process
Virginians are getting closer to the general election, and many questions remain about how the system is going to work with a large number of expected mail-in ballots.
WHRV’s Paul Bibeau spoke with York County Voter Registrar Walt Latham about the process.
Listen to their conversation, and find a full transcript below.
Paul Bibeau (PB): Walter Latham, thank you very much for talking to me.
Walter Latham (WL): Thank you for having me.
PB: Now, can you explain how people can vote in person before election day?
WL: Virginia has “no excuse” voting now. So, what you would do is if you decide you want to vote early in person, you would come to the registrar’s office or satellite office in the city or county where you live in Virginia, and you would vote just like you do on election day. You don’t have to fill an application anymore, you just come in, tell them your name, provide one of the acceptable forms of ID; the photo ID requirement was gotten rid of, but you’ll still be asked for one of the forms of ID. And then you’ll be checked in, just like on election day, given a ballot, just like election day, and you can mark your ballot and put it in the machine.
PB: What are the steps to take to vote by mail?
WL: I know there’s been some concern that people are just going to get ballots in the mail. Virginia does not send out ballots in the mail unless they’ve been requested by the voter. So, if you want a ballot, you have to request it, and there are several ways to do that. One is you can come into the office and leave us your application, and say, “Hey, here’s my application. I’d like it mailed to me.” We have people who do that, because they’re not sure, and they want some time to think about it. Another way is to go online. The state let’s you apply online for an absentee ballot. And that comes straight into our office, and we process that, and when we start mailing, we will mail you a ballot. And the other way is you can mail us your absentee ballot application, and we’ll process it. And then on or about September 18th, we will mail out ballots to people who have requested them. And we will continue to do so as requests come in. Within three days after a person requests it, or after we’ve received a completed application.
PB: Now, once you send out a ballot request to vote by mail, how can you check on the status?
WL: Well, you can… first, Virginia has started to require smart barcodes on ballots so you can track your ballot. We have on our website a widget where people can go and put in their information, and it will tell them where their ballot is located.
PB: If this is your first time voting in your city or your county, can you vote by mail? And what are the restrictions to that?
WL: If you have registered in person, then that’s not an issue. But if you’ve registered by mail, then you have to vote in person for your first election in that county or city. You would note be able to vote by mail. There are some exceptions to this, such as you’re a student attending a college outside your county or city of residence, or if you have a disability, or you’re pregnant, or you’re 65 years of age or older, or some other -- there’s a list of other exceptions, but I think those are probably the main ones. Or if you’re in the military overseas.
PB: Now, all of this information… is this true across Virginia?
WL: Yes. Virginia strives very hard, one of things we talk about a lot is how we can be more uniform. And we’re not always as successful as we like, because nothing is perfect. But we try really hard to be uniform, and much of what you’ve asked me about is, it is the law, so it’s not something that is really deviated from from county to county or city to city.
PB: Walt Latham is the voter registrar for York County. Thanks again for talking to me, sir.
WL: Thank you for having me. You have a great day.
More information on voting in Virginia is available at the state's department of elections website.