Virginians can begin casting their votes for U.S. representatives, senators and the office of the president today when early voting opens.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed new laws that opened up no-excuse absentee voting for all Virginians. Elections in May offered the first chance for Virginians to have more access to early voting as anyone could use COVID-19 as their reason for requesting an absentee ballot.

Today, registrars will begin mailing out absentee ballots for anyone who has requested to receive one by mail and Virginians who wish to vote early, in person at their local registrar’s office can begin today as well.

The push for expanded access to vote-by-mail applications and early-voting capabilities has been a priority for Democrats in Virginia for years and was on their priority list before COVID-19. With a global pandemic in place, the interest in absentee voting has skyrocketed.

Earlier this week, Gov. Ralph Northam said the Virginia Department of Elections announced it had received more than 790,000 applications for absentee ballots.

Voters who want to vote early have until Friday, Oct. 23 to request an absentee ballot.

Virginians planning to vote by mail — one of two ways absentee voting can happen — have until Election Day on Nov. 3 to send off their ballot. Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received at the registrar's office by Nov. 5 for them to be counted.

Requests for ballots by mail do not have to be returned by mail. Voters can drop off their ballots at designated ballot drop box locations or the registrar’s office. Voters who do vote by mail will have a code on their ballot they can use to track online where their ballot is.

Vote-by-mail voters will not need to have a witness when they fill out their ballot this year.

Those concerned about crowds on Election Day also have the option of voting early in person. Voters don’t have to fill out an application to vote early in person but can go to their local registrar’s office and fill out a ballot any time before Oct. 31.

Virginia, unlike some other states, can begin counting absentee ballots before Election Day and all absentee ballots are counted as long as they are received before the deadline on Oct. 31 for early in-person voting or Nov. 6 with a postmark of Nov. 3 for mailed ballots.

Polling locations will be open until 7 p.m. Nov. 3.

Local registrars

• Shenandoah County: 600 N. Main St., Suite 103, Woodstock, VA 22664

• Warren County: 465 W. 15th St., Suite 800, Front Royal, VA 22630

• Frederick County: 107 N. Kent St., # 102, Winchester, VA 22601

Contact Max Thornberry at mthornberry@nvdaily.com