Northam casts ballot on first day of early voting
Virginians can vote early in-person, via mail or vote on Election Day
Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday voted early in person at the Richmond general registrar’s office on the first day of Virginia’s 45-day early voting period.
Amid the pandemic, Virginians, through a new law, are permitted to vote absentee by mail or in person at their local registrar’s office or satellite locations. Under legislation signed by Northam, Virginian voters do not have to provide a reason for early voting, which permits any Virginia voter to cast their ballot early. For in-person voting, Virginians can — starting Friday, Sept. 18 — vote absentee in person at their local registrar’s office until Oct. 31.
Traditional in-person voting will also be available on Nov. 3, Election Day, as usual. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 and Virginia has allocated federal CARES Act funding for personal protective equipment at the polls. Virginia Medical Reserve Corps volunteers will also help at polls to ensure social distancing and sanitation measures are followed.
“Virginians can be confident their vote is secure, and will be counted,” Northam said in a statement. “While the pandemic has made this an unprecedented election year, Virginia voters have several safe and easy ways to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Voting is an essential part of our democracy, and I encourage every Virginia voter to know their options and make a plan for safely casting their ballot.”
Due to the pandemic, the Northam administration expects a higher number of Virginians to vote by mail for the 2020 election. The Department of Elections reported Thursday that it had received 824,000 requests for absentee ballots by mail — but in the 2016 General Election, only 566,000 absentee ballots were cast, half of which were by mail.
Virginians have several options to vote in the 2020 General Election including absentee by mail, absentee through drop-off locations, early in-person absentee voting and Election Day in-person voting.
Beginning Friday, Virginia general registrars will mail absentee ballots to voters who request them. The last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is Friday, Oct. 23 at 5:00 p.m. Absentee ballots include a return envelope with prepaid postage and must be postmarked by Nov. 3. All absentee ballots also include a barcode and election mail insignia for added security. Voters can track their ballot once it leaves the registrar’s office so a voter can know when it has been mailed to them and delivered back to the registrar.
Absentee ballots can also be hand delivered to the registrar’s office or be returned to a secure drop-off location. Locations are available through locality websites, and absentee ballots can also be dropped off at polling locations on Election Day.