Virginia Voting Guide: How, Where And When To Cast A Ballot This Fall
Voting in Virginia this year looks vastly different compared with previous elections. Amid the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about U.S. Postal Service delays, Virginia lawmakers have made major changes to the state’s voting process.
All registered voters can now cast an absentee ballot or vote early. Voters no longer need a witness when filling out a mail-in ballot. Drop boxes are also available for anyone who would rather submit their absentee ballot in person than mail it in.
Virginia election officials say they’re already seeing a huge increase in early and absentee voting numbers compared to previous years.
In Chesapeake, for example, more than 8,000 residents have cast ballots in person since early voting began Sept. 18, according to the city’s general registrar, Mary Lynn Pinckerman. The Chesapeake elections office has also sent out over 24,000 absentee ballots — already surpassing the 21,000 ballots mailed out in the 2016 election.
“Things are going really well,” Pinckerman said. “People are enjoying the ease of being able to vote and get it done on their time.”
Here’s more information about the election and how to cast your vote:
- Sept. 18: Early voting started and elections offices could start mailing out absentee ballots.
- Oct. 13: The deadline to register to vote or update your registration.
- Oct 23: The statewide deadline to request an absentee ballot is at 5 p.m..
- Oct. 31: The last day to vote early in person.
- Nov. 2: The deadline to request an emergency absentee ballot from your elections office. This is if you were unable to meet the Oct. 23 application deadline because of hospitalization or illness involving you or a family member.
- Nov. 3: Election Day. Polls open at 6 a.m., close at 7 p.m. If you are in line to vote by 7 p.m., polls will stay open until you vote. If you are returning your absentee ballot in person, it must be received by the time polls close.
- Nov. 6: If you’re sending your absentee ballot back by mail, it must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by your local elections office by noon on this date.
What Virginians Are Voting On:
In addition to the Presidential election, the ballot will include several other statewide and local races. Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Warner faces Republican challenger Daniel Gade. And seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are on the ballot in 11 congressional districts.
Voters will also consider candidates for mayor, local council and school board.
Statewide, ballots will include two amendments to the state constitution: one would create a redistricting commission in charge of drawing voting districts. The other would provide a tax exemption for vehicles owned by disabled veterans of the Armed Forces.
You can read more about the amendments here.
Registering To Vote
The deadline to register is Oct. 13. There are multiple ways to do so.
You may register at www.elections.virginia.gov/citizen-portal, request a Virginia Voter Registration Application from your local general registrar or register at your local Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office.
You can request a ballot online at https://vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation The deadline to submit a request is Oct. 23 at 5 p.m.
If you don’t receive a mail-in ballot after requesting one, you can call your local elections office to request another one. You can also go to the local elections office and either fill out another request form there or vote in person.
Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3 and arrive at the elections office by noon Friday, Nov. 6. You can track your ballot here.
Amid concerns about postal service delays, Pinckerman — the Chesapeake general registrar — said people should request an absentee ballot and send it in as soon as possible.
“Do it early is always our best advice,” Pinckerman said, “just to make sure you meet all the deadlines and things like that.”
Voters who prefer to submit their ballot to their elections office in person must do so by 7 p.m. Nov. 3. They can place their filled out ballots in secure drop boxes at local elections offices and satellite locations. Check with your locality about drop box locations.
Virginia no longer requires absentee voters to submit their ballots with a witness signature. State election officials eliminated the requirement to accomodate people who are worried that having a witness present while filling out their ballot could put them at risk of the coronavirus.
The General Assembly has also passed a measure instructing registrars to allow voters to correct ballot errors that might keep a mail-in ballot from being counted. Voters who make technical errors can correct them as long as their ballot was cast by Oct. 31.
Requesting An Emergency Absentee Ballot
Another change this year — you can get an emergency absentee ballot from your elections office if you’ve missed the deadline to request an mail-in ballot because of hospitalization or illness involving you or a family member.
The deadline to request an emergency absentee ballot is 2 p.m. Nov. 2. You must submit the ballot to your elections office by the time polls close on Election Day.
Early voting started on Sept. 18 and ends Oct. 31.
In previous elections, Virginians had to provide a reason for voting early, which limited how many people cast ballots in person before election day.
A new law passed by the General Assembly in April eliminated the requirement. Now, anybody can vote early as long as they’re registered to vote. Localities have added new early voting locations in anticipation of higher turnout before Election Day.
Anybody voting in person must bring some proof of ID. Virginia recently changed its ID requirements, offering people more options to verify their identity.
In addition to a driver’s license or passport, voters can now use an employer-issued photo ID, a school or university student ID, or any current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document with the voter’s name and address.
Curbside voting is available for anyone who feels ill, is disabled or does not want to wear a mask while they vote. Voters will pull up to a polling place. An election worker will come out to their car and give them their ballot.
Voting On Election Day
Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. If you’re in line by 7 p.m., the polling place will stay open until you vote.
Unlike some other states, Virginia has no plans to open fewer polling locations amid the pandemic. All of the usual polling places across the state will be open.
Voters can find their polling places here.
What If You Decide To Vote In Person After Requesting An Absentee Ballot?
You can still vote in person after you’ve received an absentee ballot. However, you must bring your mail-in ballot with you to the polling place so an election official can void it. If you don’t, you’ll have to file a provisional ballot.
The provisional ballot will be counted once election officials make sure the absentee ballot wasn’t submitted and counted. Pinckerman said some Chesapeake early voters are showing up to polling places without their absentee ballots.
“We can’t have issued two ballots to one person,” she said. “It’s just a matter of voter education. We need to make sure they bring it with them so it’s less of a headache for them and us.”