Election day is less than two weeks away and Virginia voters, particularly those opting for a mail-in ballot, have a lot to keep track of between now and November 3rd.
Voter registration process was completed last Thursday after a system outage forced a 48 hour extension to the original cut off date of 13th of October.
For all the registered voters planning to vote by mail the next date to keep in mind is October 23. It is the cut-off date to request a mail-in ballot. It must be noted that putting in a request isn’t enough, the local elections office has to actually receive the requests by 5p.m on 23rd of October.
The fastest way to apply for a mail-in ballot is through the state’s citizen portal. Mail-in ballots have been very popular this election with the State Department of Elections issuing 926,000 absentee ballots in the first week of early voting.
Once the application is received at the Voter Registration Office, ballots will be mailed to the applicants within two business days. Virginia is one of the states allowing for ballots to be received after election day as long as they are postmarked by November 3. However, the ballot must be received by the Office of Elections by noon on Nov. 6. Voters are required to mail them accordingly.
Ballots can also be put in a ballot drop-off box at any early voting location.
Virginia also offers two ballot tracking tools for mail-in voters. Voters can track their ballot on it’s way to them and also confirm whether the ballot has been received or not. Keeping track of the ballot will help voters in ensuring that their vote is counted.
The absentee voting process for Military and overseas citizens is different. Such absentee voters may receive their ballots by email, but the ballot must be returned to the Virginia Department of Elections by either U.S. mail or commercial courier. The department must receive the voted ballot no later than 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.
The voters must also understand the proper way to fill out their vote-by-mail ballot in order for it to be counted. Most of the instructions on what to do will be provided on the ballot. Voters will be required to fill out the information highlighted on the “Envelope B”.
One puzzling aspect of filling the ballot is the witness requirement. Traditionally absentee voters are required to have a witness present when filling out mail-in ballots. But given the circumstances created by Covid-19, finding a witness can put people at risk. Thankfully, Virginia was one of the eight states to strike down the witness requirement back in August.
The deadline to send an application for mail-in voting is fast approaching. Voters are well advised to apply for a mail-in ballot ASAP.
John is a local news reporter for the Virginia Herald. His coverage area is statewide with a focus on NOVA and Richmond area news.
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