VIRGINIA VOTER GUIDE
Got questions about voting? Great! We’ve got answers. Look through the list below, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know.
- I’m registered to vote. Am I registered to vote? I think I’m registered to vote.
Make sure right now. Visit the Virginia Department of Elections’s Citizen Portal. (Bookmark that link. We’ll be referring back to it a lot.) It’ll tell you your current registration status, and if you or anyone you know need to register, you can take care of it right there online. If you need help, use Albemarle County’s step-by-step video instructions on how to register to vote, including registering in person or by mail or registering online.
The deadline to register to vote online or update your voter information for the Nov. 8, 2022 election is Oct. 17. However, you can still register to vote AND submit a provisional ballot at the registrar’s office during the early voting period or at your polling place on election day.
- What if I miss that deadline?
Good news! You can still register in person and cast a provisional ballot up through and including Election Day, thanks to the same-day voter registration law passed in 2020 and taking effect this October.
- How do I know that this election is safe, and that my vote will get counted?
Learn about the many, many, many layers of security that help the Department of Elections’ nonpartisan and bipartisan officials work together to defend our democracy.
Voting In Person:
- I want to vote in person before Election Day.
Great news! You can do that without needing to give any excuse. Here in Albemarle County, you can vote early at the Albemarle County Office Building on 5th Street, south of I-64. Parking is free, and if you don’t have a car, you can take CAT Route 3 to get there. (In another county? Look up your nearest office online.)
Early voting begins Friday, Sept. 23 and ends Saturday, Nov. 5. During that period, the Albemarle County office is open for voting every weekday from 8:30 a.m to 5 p.m. For before- or after-work voters who need a little extra time, the office will open at 7 a.m. on Tuesdays, and close at 7 p.m. on Thursdays.
For the last two Saturdays before the election — Oct. 29 and Nov. 5 — the office will be open for voting from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bring one of these forms of ID and you’re golden.
- I want to vote in person on Election Day.
Excellent! Show up at your usual polling place anytime between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Bring one of the required forms of ID — you are no longer restricted to bringing only a photo ID, although they’re still valid, too! — and remember to be kind to your heroic, civic-minded election workers! Don’t know where your polling place is? Look it up via the Citizen Portal. And for you last-minute voters, remember that if you’re in line to vote by 7 p.m., you can cast a ballot — so stay in line!
- What if I forget my ID?
Good news: You can still vote! According to the Virginia Department of Elections:
If you get to your polling place without acceptable ID, you can sign an ID statement affirming your identity, and you will be able to vote a regular ballot. If you do not sign an ID statement to affirm your identity, you may vote a provisional ballot. You will be provided instructions to ensure your vote will count.
Voting by mail:
- I want to vote by mail.
Fantastic! You can totally do that. Just act quickly and don’t wait. First, watch this video to learn the basics. All done? OK, how do you want to request a ballot — by mailing in an application, or completing an online form?
- I want to ask for a mail-in ballot in writing. Easily done! Print out this form. Watch the video above. Then mail your completed application for an absentee ballot to:
Albemarle County Voter Registration
435 Merchant Walk Sq Ste 300
Charlottesville, VA 22902-6514
If you have a scanner, you can scan your entire paper application and email it to VoteAbsentee@albemarle.org.
If you have a fax machine, you can fax your paper application to 434-972-4178.
If you need a paper form mailed to you, you can call 434-972-4173.
- I want to ask for a mail-in ballot online.
Even easier! Request a mail-in ballot for November’s general 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 the video linked at the beginning of this section for all the details.
- When is it too late to request a mail-in ballot?
Whether sent online or by mail, the local election office must receive your request for a ballot by 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28. Obviously, we recommend that if you want a mail-in ballot, you should request yours sooner than that to make sure you have enough time to return it successfully.
- When does the state start mailing out ballots? When will I get mine?
County and city election offices begin mailing out ballots on Sept. 23, 2022, the day that early voting starts. If you already requested one, it should be on its way by that date. If you request one after that date, it should arrive within a week or so.
- How will I know my ballot is on its way? When I mail it in, how will I know when it arrives at the registrar’s office?
Yet again, the Citizen Portal is your friend. On your voter info page there, scroll down to the table marked “Vote by Mail Absentee,” and see when you requested a ballot, when the state mailed it to you, and when they received it from you.
You can track a mailed ballot on its path through the postal service with Ballot Scout, available for the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, and statewide. Enter your name and address, and Ballot Scout will give you 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.
- What’s the deadline for mailing in a ballot?
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 — in this case, Nov. 11.
That’s good! It means more votes will get counted! Thank your Democratic legislators in the General Assembly for that one. Every mail-in ballot that the registrars have received by election night will be counted on election night. (The rest will get counted as they come in, up until the deadline.) Mail back your ballot ASAP after you get it.
- 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.
Completing Your Mail-in Ballot:
- How can I fill out my ballot correctly to make sure it counts?
Simplicity itself! This video from Albemarle County has step-by-step instructions for correctly filling out your mail-in ballot. (The instructions should work the same wherever you may be in Virginia.)
In short: Make sure the name and address on your ballot exactly match the name and address in your voter registration data — you can use the Citizen Portal to double-check that information before you fill out your ballot — and make sure you sign your ballot’s security envelope (“Envelope B”) in the correct, designated place.
If you’re a Junior, III, IV, etc., use a generational suffix if you’re registered at the same address with an elder or younger voter who shares your name. For example: If Hank Williams, Jr. and Hank Williams III both live at 123 Rowdy Friends Road, both Junior and his son need to add their respective generational suffixes to their names on their mail-in ballots; simply listing themselves as “Hank Williams” will leave election officials confused and their ballots disqualified.
Make sure you and a witness sign the envelope in which you seal your completed ballot. When your blank ballot arrives in the mail, you’ll find three other envelopes inside. Envelope A, sealed, holds your blank, unfilled ballot, ready for you to cast your vote. Envelope B waits to seal up your completed ballot. And once that’s done, Envelope B goes into a third pre-addressed envelope for you to mail back. By Virginia law, you and a witness must both sign the outside of Envelope B in the properly marked places.
- Do I need a witness when I’m filling out my ballot?
Yes, you do! The public health emergency that waived the need for witnesses in previous elections has been lifted, so you will need a witness to sign and print their name in the designated spots on Envelope B in order for your vote to count.
- Do I have to worry about signing my name correctly to ensure 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?
If your local registrar’s office receives a mail-in ballot form with disqualifying errors, Virginia law requires it to notify 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 up until Nov. 5. You’ll have until noon on the Friday after the election, Nov. 11, to correct your ballot and make sure it counts.
Returning Your Mail-in Ballot:
- Do I need to put a stamp on the return envelope for my mail ballot?
You don’t! The return postage is already paid on mail-in ballots. Just seal it up, drop it in the mail, and you’re good to go! Watch this video for complete instructions.
- I still don’t trust the Post Office. Can I send my ballot by UPS or FedEx instead?
You can! Virginia law specifically allows commercial services to deliver ballots. But 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, can I deliver it myself?
Of course! Virginia law lets localities establish secure drop-off boxes for mail ballots. According to the Virginia Department of Elections, registrars must maintain secure drop-off locations at each county’s main registrar’s office, any satellite registrar’s offices, and on Election Day, at each precinct’s polling place.
In Albemarle County, you can drop your sealed, completed mail-in ballot in the drop-off box in front of the county election office on 5th Street; it’ll be available 24/7 through Election Day. On Election Day, polling place drop-offs will be available from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. You’re not required to check in or show ID when you drop off your sealed, completed mail-in ballot. Albemarle County voters can drop off their ballots at any Albemarle County polling place; city voters can drop off their ballots at any Charlottesville polling place.
Before you drop it in the box, please make sure your ballot’s sealed not only in Envelope B, but also inside the same return envelope you’d use if you were mailing it. Your vote will still count even if you don’t use the return envelope, but that envelope helps officials verify your identity and cast your ballot more quickly. Here’s a quick diagram to help you:
Completed ballot → Fully filled-out Envelope B → Return envelope → Secure drop-off box or mailbox
- 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 can drop off your own ballot and a few others from your family members, if you need to. Just remember that you’re going to look pretty shady if you walk up to the drop-off box with a huge armful of ballot envelopes and start stuffing them in. Appearances matter!
- Ballot Scout says my ballot’s 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. It may take a little longer now that mail-in voting is easier and more popular. Give it time, check once a day, and we suspect your patience will be rewarded.
- What if I get my mail-in 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. But in the highly unlikely event that your ballot reaches you with mere days to spare, you can still vote! Try one of these two approaches. The first one works best, but either will work:
- 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. Ask a poll worker to point you toward the secure drop-off location for mail-in ballots, and drop it off there.
- Don’t open your mail-in ballot. Take the unopened ballot with you to your polling place — or to your local election office during early voting — and hand it over to the election officials. They’ll void it, you’ll get a regular ballot, and you can vote as usual. On Election Day, please use this method only if you must, since it’ll demand extra time and attention from poll workers during what’s likely to be a very busy day.
- What if I’ve requested a mail-in ballot, but I want to vote in person instead?
You can still vote in person! First, do not open your mail ballot once you get it. Grab a relevant form of ID. Go to the Albemarle County Registrar’s Office for early voting from Sept. 23 through Nov. 5, or just go to your regular polling place on Election Day. Bring your unopened ballot with you and hand it over to the election officials. They’ll void it and give you a regular ballot to use with the voting machines. If you don’t have an unopened absentee ballot to hand over, 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.
- What if I mail in my ballot, but Election Day rolls around, and my mail-in ballot still hasn’t gotten to the registrar?
You, my friend, can still vote. Grab a relevant form of ID. 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.
Still Have Questions?
If you need reminders on the go, download and print out a Voter Pocket Guide from the Virginia Department of Elections.
- 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 that same day.
- So why do I hear about some votes getting counted later? How can I make sure my vote gets counted on Election Day?
Under Virginia law, two types of ballots will get counted in the days following the election:
- Late-arriving or incomplete mail-in ballots. Some mailed ballots that get cast on Election Day won’t arrive at the registrar until a few days later. (See “What’s the deadline for mailing in a ballot?” above.) 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’s 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. Incomplete ballots received before Nov. 5 won’t be counted on election night, but as long as you get your fixes back by Nov. 11, the Friday after the election, they’ll still be counted in the end.
Provisional ballots. If voters cast a provisional ballot at the polls — say, if they got a mail-in ballot but lost it, or it didn’t arrive — they’ll 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’s counted sooner? Try to avoid casting a provisional ballot unless you’re sure it’s the only way you can successfully vote.