How Virginians Can Vote in the November 2020 Election
As the November 2020 election approaches, COVID-19 has made a significant impact on changes to standard voting methods for citizens across the country. There has been a lot of information shared about issues with in-person and mail-in voting this November; it may be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Every vote counts— we want to share recent Virginia voting regulation changes and all the ways Virginians can vote on November 3.
Several new voting laws took effect July 1, 2020:
- Election Day is now a state holiday in Virginia
- The requirement for voters to show a voter ID prior to casting a ballot was removed
- Early voting has been expanded to 45 days before the election without requiring the citizen to provide a reason
- The change to standard voting measures, as several different voting method options were enacted to allow citizens to safely vote during the pandemic (vote by mail, early in-person voting)
Here are some important dates to remember for the 2020 election:
- September 19, 2020: Early voting period begins
- October 13, 2020: Deadline to register to vote online, in person, and in-person early
- October 23, 2020: Deadline to request a ballot by mail. The request must be received by the local election official by 5:00pm
- October 31, 2020: Early voting period ends. Deadline to request an absentee ballot in person
- November 3, 2020: Election Day
While an expansion of voting options is helpful to citizens everywhere, it also has led to confusion and the spread of misinformation. The detailed three options and some pros and cons to each are as follows:
Vote in Person on November 3, 2020
Despite COVID-19 impacting voting for the 2020 election, it is still possible to vote in person on Election Day in Virginia. To find your polling place or check your registration visit Virginia’s voting site. To vote in Virginia, a valid form of ID is required; however, there is an option available for those without ID. A valid form of ID can be:
- Voter confirmation documents received after registration
- A valid U.S. Passport
- DMV-issued ID Card or Driver’s License
- A student ID card from any U.S. community college or university
- An ID card issued by the U.S., Virginia, or local Virginia government
- A student ID card from a Virginia public or private school
- A current utility bill, government check, bank statement, or additional government document that states a name, address, etc.
- Photo ID card from place of employment
- An ID Confirmation Statement
If you do not have a valid form of ID, you have two options: sign an ID Confirmation Statement or fill out a provisional ballot. If you fill out a provisional ballot, you will either have to sign an ID Confirmation statement or be given written instructions from the electoral board on how to deliver a copy of a valid form of identification to your local electoral board by the Friday following the election at noon in order for your vote to be counted. If the valid form of ID is not received by noon that following Friday (despite the postmark), your vote will not be counted.
CDC Guidelines regarding social distancing and wearing face coverings will be enforced at all polling places to ensure safe voting conditions for everyone who chooses to vote in person. If you are over the age of 65 or with physical disabilities, curbside voting is available. An election official will bring a ballot to your vehicle to fill out. If you decide to do curbside voting, remember to bring someone with you to walk inside the polling place and alert an election official to provide the ballot curbside.
If you plan on voting in person on Election Day this November, there are several pros and cons to consider. A benefit of this voting option is that it’s what we’re used to doing. Nothing changes about the voting process other than the COVID-19 safety guidelines and social distancing measures. You still have the option to physically vote in person on Election Day. A negative of voting in person on Election Day is a myriad of the usual in-person voting cons: the possibility of leaving work to show up (if your employer does not recognize the new Virginia holiday), waiting in long lines (and you can likely count on longer wait times given the extra protections), etc. There is also the additional fear of safety given the pandemic.
Vote In-Person Early
Virginia voters can vote in person before Election Day. Early in-person voting (or absentee in-person voting) begins 45 days before Election Day: September 19, 2020 to October 31, 2020. An application for an in person absentee ballot must be completed at your city’s General Registrar’s office or satellite voting location. Remember: You do not need an excuse or reason for requesting an absentee ballot or voting early.
Voting in person early is a similar process compared to voting in person on Election Day. You must show a valid form of ID or fill out and sign an ID Confirmation Statement. Curbside voting and accessible equipment is available if requested. CDC guidelines regarding public safety will be enforced at all satellite voting locations and polling places.
A positive of voting in person early is that it can be done at your schedule’s convenience. Plus, there’s the added relief that your vote won’t be delayed or lost in the mail because the ballot is delivered directly to the facility, like regularly voting in person on Election Day. A negative of voting in person early is the normal inconveniences that come along with regularly voting in person, like taking time to show up to the polling center; however, the time to vote will likely be less than on Election Day.
Vote by Mail
If you don’t want to (or can’t) visit polling places for this election (whether it be on Election Day or early), you can still vote absentee by mail. Voting by mail, which seems confusing at first, is a fairly simple process.
The first step to download and complete the Vote by Mail Application form and return it to your local registrar’s office by scanned email attachment, mail, or fax. The deadline to do so is October 23, 2020. If you aren’t sure about your local registrar office’s contact information, the Virginia voting site offers an online lookup tool to make the process easier. After this step, your ballot will come in the mail. Keep your eye on your mailbox; ballots can be mailed out as early as 45 days before Election Day.
Finally, complete your ballot and mail it to your local registrar’s office on Election Day by 7:00pm at the latest. Your ballot must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by your local registrar’s office by noon on the third day after Election Day at the latest to be counted in this election.
A large positive of voting by mail is you can do it from the comfort of your home. There is no added stress to have to make it to the polling centers on time or risk your safety with the pandemic. Additionally, your ballot can be mailed in on your own schedule. Despite the convenience of mailing in a ballot instead of voting in person, a con of voting by mail is that the ballot is at the mercy of the U.S. postal service. The USPS has been taxed with staffing shortages due the pandemic and there has been a lot of press about reduced capacity. Even in the best of times, things can go wrong with the mail. There’s no guarantee that the ballot will be received in time to be counted.
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about voting in this upcoming election. There are multiple voting method options available for Virginians, and each citizen should do their research and choose the best method for them. Every vote matters and we hope you remain safe and healthy while exercising this important right.
If you have more questions or want to learn more about this election’s operations, visit the Virginia voting site.