Category: 2020 Elections

Virginia Voter Guide

Voting questions answered. Here is a list of Q&As for your reference.


Registration


 Early Voting

  • How can I vote in person before Election Day?

Early voting for the Nov. 2021 Virginia elections has already begun and will run through Oct. 30, 2021. During this period, you may go to vote at the Albemarle County Office Building on 5th Street, south of I-64. (In another county? Look up your nearest office online.)

The office will be open for voting during the following hours:

        • Monday, Wednesday, & Friday: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
        • Tuesday: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. for early morning voters
        • Thursday: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. for late evening voters

Wear a mask and bring one form of ID.

  • What’s the difference between mail-in ballots, in-person early voting, or voting on election day?  Do some votes get counted differently than others?

The only difference between them is how they arrive at your local election office. A ballot is a ballot is a ballot. They’re all votes. They all count. Every ballot that has reached your local registrar’s office by the close of polls on Election Day — whether it arrives by mail, gets dropped off in a secure drop-off box at your local registrar’s office, is cast in person during early voting, or gets cast at polling places on Election Day — gets counted on Election Night.

  • So why do I hear about some votes getting counted later? How can I make sure my vote gets counted on Election Night?

Under Virginia law, two types of ballots will get counted in the days following the election:

        • Late-arriving absentee ballots. Some mailed ballots that get cast on election day won’t arrive at the registrar until a few days later. That’s good, actually! It means more votes get a chance to count! But, Virginia obviously can’t count ballots it doesn’t have, so it’ll count those late-arriving ballots as they trickle in, up to the final deadline for them to arrive. Want to make sure your ballot is counted sooner? Just mail it in or drop it off early enough to ensure that it gets to the registrar’s office by the close of polls on Election Day.
        • Provisional ballots. If voters cast a provisional ballot at the polls — say, if they got a mail-in ballot but lost it, or aren’t sure it’ll arrive in time — Virginia will have to wait a few days until that final deadline, just to make sure no other valid ballot from the same voter has also arrived. That’s also good! We don’t want anyone voting twice, intentionally or otherwise. Want to make sure your ballot is counted sooner? Try to avoid casting a provisional ballot unless you’re sure it’s the only way you can successfully vote.

Voting In-Person on Election Day

  • Where do I go?

Be prepared to properly socially distance, and show up at your usual polling place on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Consult the Citizen Portal if you are unsure of where your polling place is.

  • What do I need?

Bring a mask and one of the required forms of ID — you no longer need to bring a photo ID, although they’re still valid, too!


Voting by Mail

***Important Reminder: If you are dropping off a ballot, make sure that it is in the envelope (provided) that has the tracking barcode. This barcoded envelope means staff can enter the ballot’s receipt in VERIS much faster and the voter can know when their ballot has been received.

  • How can I get a ballot?

Watch this video to learn the basics (¡Ya disponible en Español!).
Request a ballot online:

You may request a mail-in ballot for November’s election using the Citizen Portal. You’ll need your Virginia driver’s license and Social Security number to complete the online application. Once you’ve answered a few simple questions, you’re signed up to get a mail ballot as soon as the state starts mailing them out. Watch this video for step-by-step instructions (¡Ya disponible en Español!).

Request a ballot by mail:

Print out this form. Then watch this video (¡Ya disponible en Español!) and follow the instructions to fill it out. Mail your completed applications for an absentee ballot to:

Albemarle County Voter Registration
PMB 160
435 Merchant Walk Sq Ste 300
Charlottesville, VA 22902-6514

  • Is it too late to request an absentee ballot?

Nope! Request an absentee ballot through the Citizen Portal, or fill out a written form (found here).

New Virginia law says that in order to count, your ballot must be postmarked by Election Day, and it must arrive at the registrar’s office by noon on the Friday after the election.

  • How will I know when my ballot is on its way? When I mail it in, how will I know when it has reached the registrar’s office?

You may reference the Citizen Portal. Under the “Absentee” tab on your voter info page, you can see when you requested a ballot, when the state mailed it to you, and when they received it from you.

Virginia has debuted an even better ballot-tracking method called Ballot Scout, available now in the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, and statewide. With Ballot Scout, you enter your name and address to receive a live update of where your ballot is in the mailing process. You can also sign up for email and text updates as your ballot makes its way through the system! Try Ballot Scout now.

  • Ballot Scout says my ballot has arrived at the election office, but it’s not showing up as received on the Citizen Portal. What’s going on?

Just be patient. Under normal circumstances, it takes election officials two business days from the time they receive a ballot until it shows up as received on the Citizen Portal. This year, it may take a little longer due to all the extra ballots. Give it time, check once a day, and we suspect your patience will be rewarded.

  • If I don’t trust the Post Office, may I send my ballot by UPS or FedEx instead?

Yes! Virginia law specifically allows commercial services to deliver ballots. However, private companies don’t have the USPS’s authority to postmark mail, so if you do send in your ballot this way, it must arrive at the registrar’s office by 7 p.m. on Election Day to count.

  • If I don’t want to send my ballot in the mail, may I deliver the ballot myself?

Yes! In Albemarle County, a secure drop-off box for mail-in ballots is available at the county election office (aka the registrar’s office) 24/7. On Election Day, polling place drop-offs will be available during the hours that each polling place is open. You’re not required to show ID when you drop off your sealed, completed mail-in ballot.

***Before you drop it in the box, please make sure that your ballot is sealed not only in Envelope B, but also inside the provided return envelope you’d use if you were mailing it in. Your vote will still count even if you don’t, but that envelope contains a bar code that helps officials verify your identity and cast your ballot more quickly.

  • Can I only drop my own ballot in the box? Do other members of my family have to drop theirs off personally as well?

You may drop off your own ballot and your family members. Just keep in mind that you might look a bit shady if you walk up to the drop-off box with an armful of ballot envelopes.

  • Do I need a witness when I’m filling out my ballot?

No. Thanks to a recent court settlement and a new Virginia law, if you don’t have a safe way to get a witness to sign your ballot, then you don’t need to have a witness sign it.

  • Do I need to put a stamp on the return envelope for my mail ballot?

No. New Virginia law will prepay all return postage on mail-in ballots. Just fill it out correctly, seal it up, drop it in the mail, and you’re good to go.

  • What if I get my absentee ballot just before the election and I don’t have time to send it back?

If you request a ballot now, you should get it in plenty of time. However, in the unlikely event that your ballot reaches you with mere days to spare, you can still vote! Try one of these two approaches — either one will work just fine:

        1. Open your mail-in ballot, complete it, and make sure it’s correctly signed and sealed as if you were planning to mail it back. Take your sealed, completed mail-in ballot with you to your polling place and ask a poll worker to point you toward the secure drop-off location for mail-in ballots, and drop it off there.
        2. Don’t open your mail-in ballot. Take the unopened ballot with you to your polling place and hand it over to the election officials. They’ll void it, you’ll get a regular ballot, and you can vote as usual.
  • What if I’ve requested a mail-in ballot, but it hasn’t arrived, and I want to vote in person instead?

Short answer: You can still vote! The longer answer depends on when you want to go vote in person:

        • I want to vote in person before Election Day: Mask up. Grab a relevant form of ID. Go to the Albemarle County Registrar’s Office for early voting. Tell the poll workers that your ballot hasn’t arrived, and ask to sign a “gold oath” — also known as SBE-708 — certifying that you haven’t gotten that ballot yet. The poll worker may encourage you to go home and wait just a little bit more. You may want to heed their advice! (Remember, Ballot Scout is your friend!) But if you insist, you can sign that golden-colored form, and you’ll get to vote a regular ballot, not a provisional one, that’ll get counted on Election Night the same as all other regular ballots.
        • I want to vote in person on Election Day: Mask up. Grab that ID. Visit your regular polling place. On Election Day, if you don’t have an unopened mail ballot to hand in, you’ll have to cast a provisional ballot, not a regular ballot. It might take a few extra days to get counted, but it will get counted.
  • Should I request a mail-in ballot even if I plan to vote in person?

That’s not necessary! If you want to vote in person, vote in person, whether you do so early or on Election Day. If you request a mail ballot now, you’ll get it in plenty of time to return it before the election, in person or by mail. The General Assembly has taken action to eliminate most of the hurdles or concerns that once surrounded mail-in ballots.

  • How can I fill out my ballot correctly to make sure it counts?

This video from Albemarle County has step-by-step instructions for correctly filling out your mail-in ballot.

  • Do I have to worry about signing my name correctly to ensure that my ballot counts?

No, you don’t! Virginia does not use signature-checking as a ballot security measure (though the Commonwealth uses lots of other safety measures!), so you don’t need to fear that a slight difference in how you sign your name will disqualify you.

  • If I make an error filling out the required information on my ballot, will it get thrown out?

The General Assembly has you covered! Starting with this November’s election, if the Board of Elections receives a mail-in ballot form with disqualifying errors, they’ll now tell you about the error within three days, via email, mail, or phone, and give you instructions on how to fix the error. Because of that three-day limit, they’ll let you know about errors for any ballots they receive. You’ll have until noon on the Friday after the election to correct your ballot and make sure it counts. Yet another reason to request and mail back your ballots as soon as possible.

  • What if I mail in my ballot, but Elections Day rolls around, and my mail-in ballot still hasn’t gotten to the registrar? Or what if I get a mail-in ballot but then lose it?

You can still vote! Mask up, grab a relevant form of ID, and head to your local polling place. Explain the situation and ask for a provisional ballot. If your mail-in ballot arrives in time, it gets counted, and your provisional ballot gets tossed. If your mail-in ballot is late, your provisional ballot counts. You still only get one vote, but either way, your vote counts.

IMPORTANT UPDATE ON REGISTERING AND VOTING IN PERSON

Today, Oct. 13, is the last day to register to vote in Virginia.


From ACDP: update 2:14 p.m.: Dept of Elections system is back up and running!


From the Dept of Elections website:

“To register to vote or update your voter registration information:

By mail: Applications must be postmarked by October 13

In-Person: Applications must be submitted by 5 pm October 13

Online: Applications must be submitted by 11:59 pm October 13”

Vote by Mail – Video Guides

The following videos were created by Albemarle County to help guide voters through the voting by mail process.

 

Voting by mail overview:

 

(En Español)

 

Requesting a mail-in ballot online:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zdYVH-_ufo&feature=youtu.be

(En Español)

 

Requesting a mail-in ballot by mail:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4tdy1tyg0M&feature=youtu.be

(En Español)

 

Step-by-step instructions for filling out your mail-in ballot correctly:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmUEnVQkDik&feature=emb_title

 

Thank you for volunteering! – Postcards

We’ve concluded our postcards program and would like to thank everyone who volunteered! Thank you for being a part of the democratic process!

Congratulations to Postcards4Va, whose swiftly scribbling scribes sent Virginia voters a mind-boggling 435,019 postcards this year!

If you still have time to spare and want to help campaigns boost turnout in battleground states, sign up with VoteForward and write how-to-vote letters to citizens outside Virginia who can vote, but usually don’t. VoteForward has smashed their goal of 10 million letters written before the Oct. 17 mailing date, but they are still going with a new goal of 15 million letters, and they need your help to reach it!