RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today voted early in person at the Richmond general registrar’s office on the first day of Virginia’s 45-day early voting period.
New laws allow all Virginians to vote absentee by mail, or in person at their local registrar’s office or satellite locations. The Governor signed legislation this year removing a previous provision that required absentee voters to provide a reason for voting early, so any Virginia voter may vote early without providing a specific reason.
“Virginians can be confident their vote is secure, and will be counted,” said Governor Northam. “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 ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a higher number of Virginians are expected to vote by mail in the 2020 election. As of Thursday, the Department of Elections had received 824,000 requests for absentee ballots by mail. For comparison, 566,000 votes were cast absentee in the 2016 General Election—half by mail.
Virginians have several options for safely casting their ballots for the November General Election.
Absentee by Mail
Beginning today, September 18, Virginia general registrars will mail absentee ballots to voters who request them. Virginians can request a ballot online at elections.virginia.gov. The last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is Friday, October 23 at 5:00 p.m.
All absentee ballots will include a return envelope with prepaid postage. Ballots with a postmark of November 3 or earlier will be accepted until noon on Friday, November 6.
As an additional layer of security, every absentee ballot envelope is required to have an intelligent mail barcode and an election mail insignia. The insignia tells the United States Postal Service that this piece of mail is a ballot and should be prioritized. The barcode lets voters track their ballot once it leaves the registrar’s office—so a voter will know when their ballot has been mailed to them, and when it is delivered back to the registrar. Voters can track their absentee ballot using the absentee ballot look-up tool available here.
Absentee ballots may also be hand delivered to your local registrar’s office or returned to a secure drop-off location, which include any satellite voting location. A list of drop-off locations is available on your county or city’s official website. On Election Day, you can also drop off your completed absentee ballot at any polling place in the county or city in which you are registered to vote.
For voters who prefer to vote in person, there are two options.
Early In Person
Starting today, September 18, Virginia voters can vote absentee in person at their local registrar’s office as Governor Northam did. Voters can simply go to their local general registrar’s office or a satellite voting location identified by the registrar’s office and cast their vote. Voters may use this option through Saturday, October 31—one of the longest early voting periods of any state.
The other option is the traditional one: voting in person on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, at your polling place. Polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Virginia has allocated federal CARES Act funding to ensure that all election officers have personal protective equipment, and Virginia Medical Reserve Corps volunteers will assist at polling places to ensure social distancing and sanitization measures are followed.
Virginia considers election security to be a top priority and has made significant progress in recent years to ensure a secure election process that places election integrity and voter confidence at the forefront. Additional information about election security in Virginia can be found here.
To register to vote or learn more about absentee voting in Virginia, visit elections.virginia.gov/absentee. Answers to frequently asked questions can be found here.
Follow the Department of Elections on Twitter at @vaElect, on Facebook at @VirginiaELECT, and on Instagram at @va_election.
See below for photos of Governor Northam casting his ballot at the Richmond general registrar’s office.
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