Early voting for the Nov. 2 election kicks off today in Virginia.
This is the second year that Virginia voters have been able to select their candidates early without needing a valid reason since the General Assembly passed legislation that went into effect last year.
Early voting will take place at voter registration locations from Friday until Oct. 30. At the sites, voters will fill out their ballot and feed it into a machine. Curbside voting also will be offered.
In Shenandoah, Warren, and Frederick counties, early votes can be cast at the local election offices.
In Warren County, that’s the Office of Elections and Voter Registration, 465 W. 15th St., Suite 800. The office is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and can be contacted at 540-635-4327.
"We're ready," said Carol Tobin, Warren County's director of elections and general registrar. The county has 29,119 registered voters with 9,937 registered in Front Royal.
In Shenandoah County, that’s the Department of Voting and Elections, 600 N. Main Street, Suite 103, Woodstock. The office is open 8:30 a.m.-to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and can be contacted at 540-459-6195.
"Friday, we're ready to roll," said Lisa W. McDonald, Shenandoah County's director of elections and general registrar. The county has 31,375 registered voters, including 5,377 in Strasburg, 5,079 in Woodstock, 3,619 in New Market, 2,259 in Mount Jackson and 2,177 in Edinburg.
In Frederick, that's at the County Administration Building, 107 N. Kent St., Winchester, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for federal and state holidays. Last year, most county residents who voted early did so at a satellite location at Sunnyside Plaza, according to Frederick County Voter Registrar Rich Venksoske, but that site will not be open this year, as it was approved for one-time use by the Board of Supervisors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
All three offices will also be open for early voting on Oct. 23 and 30 — the last two Saturdays before Election Day.
Virginia law requires all voters to provide an acceptable form of identification at the polls or sign an ID confirmation statement. Those without a proper form of ID can either sign an ID confirmation statement or cast a provisional ballot. Voters who cast a provisional ballot have until noon on the Friday following Election Day to deliver a copy of their identification to their locality’s electoral board.
Acceptable forms of ID include:
• A Virginia DMV-issued driver’s license or identification card
• A valid United States passport,
• a government-issued ID card
• A valid college or university student ID card
• A public or private school ID card, an employer-issued photo ID card
• Any current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government documents with your name and address that are less than 12 months old.
Absentee ballots are also available. To apply, visit elections.virginia.gov. Applications must be received by a local registrar's office by 5 p.m. Oct. 22. Certain emergencies, which are detailed on the website, allow for absentee voting to be applied for by 2 p.m. the day before Election Day.
The absentee ballot application can be submitted online with a Department of Motor Vehicles identification, so a signature can be matched with it, or delivered to a local voting registrar’s office in person, by mail or fax or email. An absentee ballot will then be mailed to the applicant.
Absentee ballots can then be returned at drop off locations or by mail. Drop off locations come with absentee ballot instructions.
Absentee ballots returned by mail must be postmarked on or before Nov. 2 and received by the registrar’s office by noon Nov. 5.
Warren County had 515 absente ballot requests as of Wednesday, Tobin said. Shenandoah County has close to 500 absentee ballot requests as of Wednesday afternoon, McDonald said.
The pandemic and the convenience of voting outside of one specific day led to about 41% of Warren County votes being cast early in the 2020 election, Tobin said. In Shenandoah County, McDonald said about 50% of votes were cast early.
New this year is legislation that passed in March prohibiting a person from possessing a gun within 40 feet of a building used as a polling place, including registrar offices. That includes one hour before and one hour after a building is used as a poling place.
Despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud from last year's election, both Tobin and McDonald spoke about the security of this one.
"We take that very seriously," Tobin said of the sworn oath election workers take to uphold the integrity of the process.
"There's always a checks and balance system, all the way through," McDonald said. Machines are checked and several observers are in place, she said.
Both Tobin and McDonald encouraged anyone who might have questions about the election process to become a volunteer to see how it is conducted.
In Warren County, two Board of Supervisors seats and two School Board seats are up for grabs. Special elections are also set to fill vacancies on the School Board and Front Royal Town Council.
In Shenandoah County, three Board of Supervisors seats and three School Board seats are up for election. There is also a special election for a New Market Town Council seat.
All of the seats in Virginia's House of Delegates seats are for up election.
Warren County is split into three House districts — the 15th, 18th and 29th. The 15th District includes the Fork and South River districts. The 18th district includes the Happy Creek District as well as the East Shenandoah and South River precincts. The 29th District includes the North River District, as well as the Fork, Town and West Shenandoah precincts.
All of Shenandoah County is in the 15th District.
Virginia voters will also select a new governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.