Virginia once had the dubious distinction of being called the “second hardest state to vote in.” While it’s still harder to vote in Virginia than some other states, it is making significant progress.
Earlier this year, Virginia enacted new legislation that greatly expanded voter access. The new laws:
- Make it easier to vote by absentee ballot.
- Declared Election Day a state holiday.
- Softened voter ID requirements.
- Expand early voting.
- Enable you to track your ballot.
- Allow for ballot drop boxes and accessible voting options.
Despite these awesome, enfranchising new laws, voting in Virginia may still be difficult due to:
- Incidents of voter intimidation and obstruction
- Technical issues
- General confusion caused by the recent changes to the law and one-off mishaps and incidents
If you’ve already voted, woohoo! You’re a real dynamo for not letting these challenges deter you.
If you haven’t voted yet, you now know some of the difficulties you may face. Armed with Virginia voting knowledge, though, you can be prepared to vote like a total boss.
We want to help you make sure your ballot’s cast and counted. So, keep reading to find out all you need to know to vote in Virginia.
Before You Vote: Make Sure You’re Registered
Before you can request a ballot or vote, you need to be registered to vote. The address that you register with dictates what’s on your ballot and where you vote.
- You can register to vote online, by mail or in person.
- Be aware of voter registration deadlines. It’s too late to register to vote on November 3rd.
- Not sure if you’re already registered? You can check your voter registration status.
- Moved or had a name change? You’ll need to update your voter registration, by re-registering, so it’s current. Since the deadline for voter registration for the November 3rd election has passed, you may want to contact your General Registrar.
- If you’re unregistered, register to Vote for the next election.
- You must meet certain requirements to be eligible to register to vote in Virginia.
You have a lot of options when it comes to how, when and where you can vote. We encourage you to vote early if you can, to avoid crowds and ensure your ballot’s received before the deadline.
Voting by Absentee/Mail-In Ballot
Voting by absentee or mail-in ballot is available to all Virginia voters; no excuse is needed.
- The deadline for requesting an absentee/mail-in ballot has passed. If you didn’t request your ballot by October 23, you’ll need to vote in person, early or Election Day.
- Read and follow the instructions for completing your ballot.
- Your ballot can be returned to your local registrar’s office by mail or in person (registrar’s office, official ballot drop-box or at a polling station). Find your registrar’s office.
- Your municipal clerk’s office must receive your ballot by 7pm on Election Day.
- If returning your ballot by mail, the recommendation is to post it ASAP. It must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by the registrar by noon on November 6th.
- If you’re a first-time voter who registered by mail, there may be applicable restrictions to you voting absentee by mail.
Early Voting In Person
Early in-person voting is open to all Virginia voters; no excuse or application is needed.
- Early voting is open through October 31.
- You’ll cast your vote at your registrar’s office or a satellite voting location
- You’ll need to provide your name, address and an acceptable ID or sign an ID Confirmation Statement.
Election Day Voting In Person
We get it — voting in person at an official polling station on Election Day can be very exciting. The key to making the day a success is being prepared.
- Preview your ballot so you know what and what is on it and how you’ll cast your vote before you reach the voting booth.
- Find your designated polling station.
- Confirm your voter registration status, again, before you leave for the polling place.
- Bring the required acceptable ID.
- Be prepared to wait to vote at the polling station.
- Vote and be heard!
Voting in Person: COVID-19 Precautions
Voting IRL can be as safe as going to the grocery store. The key is to follow CDC guidelines for coronavirus prevention and good ol’ common sense. To recap, though, here are the highlights:
- Before you go to the polls, screen yourself for any new symptoms of COVID-19. If you feel ill, do not go to the polling place! (You don’t want to chance getting others sick.) You should be able to find an alternate way to vote.
- Observe social distancing. Try to keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others.
Minimize the number of surfaces you touch and the amount of time you’re touching them.
- Bring your own pen.
- Bring some cotton swabs. You can use them to push buttons on the voting machines (if your machine has buttons).
- Consider wearing disposable gloves.
- Bring your own hand sanitizer. Disinfect your hands when you enter and leave the polling place.
- Wear a face covering. Make sure it’s over your nose and mouth. Some people also like to wear a face shield or other eye protection.
Virginia’s a state with a bad rep when it comes to voter access. Thankfully, sweeping voting reform laws were passed in July. So, hopefully you’ll find it much easier to vote this November.
It’s beyond important that your voice is heard by having your vote counted. Be sure to welcome in these new voter-friendly laws by taking advantage of them! To do so, make a voting plan. The info above for voting by absentee or in person (early or on Election Day) should help.
And, here are some quick links to more great resources:
- Citizen Portal (state voting website to check your registration status, find polling places, etc.)
- Voter Pocket Guide (Virginia’s voter info pamphlet)
- Virginia Department of Elections
- ACLU Virginia > 2020 Voters’ Rights (has tons of other really useful info, too!)
- Vote.org > Virginia
Get your friends and family involved, too! Staying civically engaged can be simple and enjoyable. And, if you need some ideas on how to have a winning Election Day, check out these tips.
Let’s #IGNITEthevote together! The first step is preparing yourself to vote in your state.