Early voting has arrived in Virginia

A Decision 2020 update on how to vote now or in November

~Joshua Grimes, News Editor~

The election season has officially arrived in our Commonwealth. Unlike the past elections, this cycle has already been different, even in the midst of a pandemic. There have been twists and turns from a contested beginning down to the two presidential nominees and vice presidential nominees, which we are voting for on Nov. 3 or earlier. This race for the presidency, as what former presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said to the New York Times in April, “this is the most important election of our lifetimes”. Current Democratic Nominee Joe Biden and former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg agreed with Senator Sanders, in the same New York Times article. 

In a press release from the Governor of Virginia, Northam said, “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.”

The general assembly passed new laws that went into effect for the November election season. The new laws now allow all Virginians to vote absentee by mail without giving a reason and allows Virginians to vote in-person at their registrar’s office or satellite locations within the forty-five day early voting period. This early voting period began on Friday, Sept. 18. Governor Northam voted on the first day to show that it can be done. 

Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, votes during the early voting period on Sept. 18. Photo courtesy of the Governor of Virginia.

According to the press release, there are different ways for Virginians to vote. The first is by mail absentee. The deadline to request a ballot by mail is Friday, Oct. 23 at 5 pm. If anyone needs to request one, it can be done online at elections.virginia.gov. Those who already requested one, the ballots have been sent out as of Sept. 18. Anyone who votes by absentee must include a return envelope with prepaid postage and the postmark has to be Nov. 3 or earlier. All ballots are due Nov. 6 at noon. 

Additional information provided by the press release is about the extra level of security. The extra level of security is that 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. To track the ballot, go to elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/absentee-voting.

Another option under absentee is the drop-off locations. If a voter prefers not to send it back by mail, it can be hand delivered to the local registrar’s office or returned to a secure drop-off location, which includes any satellite voting location. The list of drop-off locations can be found on the county or city’s official website. If a voter decides to wait until election day to hand deliver the ballot, they can drop off the completed absentee ballot at any polling place in the county or city in which the voter is registered.

The second to last option of voting is a traditional in-person style but it’s one that must be done at the local registrar’s office since it’s early. According to the press release, 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. The option will only be available until Halloween, which is one of the longest early voting periods of any state. 

Finally, the last option to vote is on Nov. 3 the traditional style at the polls from 6am to 7pm. Election Day is a State Holiday and Christopher Newport has canceled all classes that day. If a voter is in line before 7pm, they will be able to still vote after the voting center shut its doors. In the press release it states that 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.

Information from this story obtained from The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/07/us/politics/2020-vs-2016-election.html and a press release from the Governor of Virginia https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/all-releases/2020/september/headline-860411-en.html

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