There have been many changes since the last time Virginia voted in a presidential election. A lot of people are probably voting absentee for the first time and unsure of how to go about casting their vote. There’s a lot of information out there, so we’re here to help.
If you are registered to vote in Virginia, you can vote absentee, including by mail, and in person. There are still changes happening across Virginia, such as ballot drop boxes. So if you’re ever uncertain about how to vote, contact your local registrar.
Have any other questions? Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll update this page with any additional information.
Here are answers to some common questions:
HOW CAN I REGISTER TO VOTE?
To register in Virginia, you must:
- Be a resident of Virginia and a United States citizen.
- Be 18 years old on Election Day.
- Not currently be declared mentally incompetent by a court of law.
- Have your right to vote restored if you have been convicted of a felony.
How do I register to vote and what is the deadline?
The quickest way to register is with the Virginia Department of Elections’ online form. You can also fill out a paper application and either mail it or hand-deliver it to your local registrar. You can get the application on the Department of Elections’ website or various other locations, like public libraries or voter registration drives.
I’m already registered, but how do I update some information?
If you want to change your address, name or other information, you may use the same Department of Elections’ online citizen portal. You may also send a letter to your local registrar. More information about options to update information can be found here.
What is the deadline to register to vote?
The last day to register to vote is Oct. 13. Applications submitted through the mail must be postmarked no later than the deadline.
If I’m already registered, is there anything I can do to check on my information?
You can check your registration information here.
How can I find out where my local registrar office is?
If you want to look up the address, hours of operation, email and phone number of your local registrar’s office, you can use the Department of Elections’ search tool.
HOW CAN I VOTE IN PERSON?
Where do I vote?
Check here for what your polling location is to make sure it hasn’t changed.
Do I need an ID?
You need to show an ID or show an ID confirmation statement to vote in person. Check here for a list of acceptable forms of ID.
How do I vote in person?
When you arrive, you’ll check in by saying or writing your name and address and showing your ID. You’ll receive a ballot, fill it out at a booth, and scan your ballot into a machine.
When are polls open?
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 3. You can line up before 7 a.m., and if you are in line by 7 p.m. you will be allowed to vote.
Will there be personal protective equipment?
During the primary, election officials wore face coverings, had regularly cleaned equipment and used markings on the floors for social distancing. Expect similar precautions.
Is it safer to vote by mail or in person?
How you want to vote is up to you. People will still be at risk of contracting COVID-19 in November, so voting by mail is safer because it has less risk of exposure than voting in person. Voters can minimize that risk for themselves and poll workers by wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.
Can I vote early?
Yes. You can vote at your local elections office between Sept. 18 and Oct. 31. You don’t have to have a reason for voting early. You’ll need to bring an acceptable form of ID. If you don’t have an ID, you can sign an ID confirmation statement to confirm who you are and that you regularly vote. You can also vote by provisional ballot, which means you have to provide ID later, to confirm who you are before your vote can be certified.
HOW CAN I VOTE ABSENTEE OR BY MAIL?
How do I get an absentee ballot?
You can request a ballot now, or you can contact your registrar’s office. You can also visit your registrar’s office and complete an application. People voting for the first time in a federal election should also send a scanned copy of their ID along with their application. If they fail to do so, they are required by federal law to show proof of ID when turning in their ballots.
How quickly will my ballot arrive to me?
Ballots are going out as voters request them, and generally it’ll be mailed out a few days after you request one. Election officials recommend you don’t delay requesting a ballot if you know that you plan to vote absentee.
What if my absentee ballot doesn’t show up?
You can call your local elections office to request another one, but officials may ask you to fill out an online form to make the request formal. You can also go to the local elections office after Sept. 18 and fill out the form there or vote in person there. You can also show up to your polling location on Election Day and cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted once election officials determine you are registered and have not previously cast a ballot.
What’s the deadline to request a ballot?
You have to request a ballot by 5 p.m. Oct. 23.
Do I need to have an excuse to vote absentee?
In previous years, you had to provide a reason for voting absentee. You no longer have to do that in Virginia.
Do I need to buy a stamp to mail my ballot?
No. The state approved funding so that all absentee ballots come with prepaid postage.
Do I need to have someone sign my ballot as a witness?
Because of the pandemic and wanting to limit interactions, the state has waived the requirement that you have to have someone sign your absentee ballot as a witness.
How can I return my ballot?
You can return your ballot in a few different ways:
- You can mail it, but it must be postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received by noon Nov. 6. If you decide to submit your ballot through the mail, election officials are strongly encouraging people to mail their ballots as soon as possible to ensure they arrive in time. Anyone can drop your ballot into the mailbox for you, but you should make sure it is someone that you trust.
- You can deliver it to your local voter registration office before Election Day or by 7 p.m. Election Day.
- You can drop it off at your polling location on Election Day before polls close at 7 p.m.
- You can drop it into a ballot drop box. This year, local registrars are supposed to set up boxes — they look like mail boxes — at their offices and other locations they think would be useful to voters to drop off their ballots. Some localities are providing more boxes than others, so if you’re considering using a ballot drop box and are unsure if your locality has any, you may want contact your registrar to ask where the boxes are located. Like the mail, you or someone else can drop it into the box.
How will I know it arrived?
You can check to see if your absentee application was received and whether your ballot was sent and received by going to the Department of Elections’ Citizen Portal.
What if I made a mistake on my ballot?
If your absentee ballot arrives by person, mail or drop box to the registrar’s office by Oct. 31, election officials will examine it for any problems. If there are any problems that would result in the ballot being invalidated, you will be contacted and given the opportunity to correct the problems. You would have to make any fixes by Nov. 6.
What if I have an emergency that causes me to miss the application or voting deadlines?
You can request an emergency ballot if you didn’t apply for a ballot on time because of hospitalization or illness involving you or a member of your family, or another emergency that justifies receiving this ballot. You need to request an emergency ballot from your local elections office by 2 p.m. Nov. 2. You can get the application at that office or online. If the office approves your request, it’ll provide the ballot to you or whomever you designate. You’ll need that person to witness that you filled out the ballot, which must be returned to the local elections office or your polling location before 7 p.m. Election Day.
Can I change my mind and decide to vote in person on Election Day even after receiving an absentee ballot?
Yes. There’s no formal way to contact the Department of Elections and cancel your absentee ballot request, but if you decide to vote in person at your regular polling location on Election Day, bring your mail ballot with you to the polls so election officials can void it.
Can I vote twice? By mail and in person?
No. First, it’s a crime to do so. Second, there are layers of security in place to prevent this from happening. If you request an absentee ballot, that will be noted in the pollbook poll workers refer to when identifying whether people are eligible to vote. If the pollbook notes that you have requested an absentee ballot, you would receive a provisional ballot at the poll, which would only be counted once election officials confirm your absentee ballot wasn’t counted.
What’s the best way to vote?
It’s up to you. All forms of voting are counted the same. You’ll want to make a decision based on what is safest for you and what you’re most comfortable doing. Voting should be easy.
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