ICYMI: Get Ready for Election Season, Not Election Night

Richmond, Virginia—This year, be prepared for election season. With new laws expanding access to absentee voting and a global pandemic pushing more voters to vote by mail, election results are unlikely to be available on election night in all races. A new law expands eligibility for ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by noon the Friday after the election. With a spike in voting from home due to COVID-19, competitive races may take up to a week to be processed and counted. 

“Voting by mail is safe and secure and a great option for Virginia voters this year. But with far more people requesting their ballots at home, we have to be prepared for a slower vote count than in previous years. Thanks to a new law allowing ballots postmarked by Election Day to count if they arrive by Friday, people who experience mail delays will still have their votes counted,” Anna Scholl, Executive Director of Progress Virginia said. “TBecause the Department of Elections has a new online tracking system, no voter will have to wonder if their ballot was received. We all need to have patience on election night and make sure every eligible vote is counted before calling races, even if that means waiting longer than we have in years past.”

Why Virginia’s election night might be more like an election week [Graham Moomaw, Virginia Mercury]

“Anyone expecting to tune in for quick results on election night should probably start thinking about it as election week, according to Virginia officials who are trying to reshape public expectations in what’s expected to be a highly unusual presidential year.”

“‘If it’s a close race you probably won’t have results until at least Friday,’ Elections Commissioner Chris Piper said in an interview.”

“The key difference this year is the shift to voting by mail in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That change will make ballots coming in via mail, including many that will arrive after Election Day, more important to the outcome. All ballots postmarked before the 7 p.m. poll closing time will be counted, as long as they arrive before noon on the Friday after Election Day.”

“More than 80 days before Election Day, applications for absentee ballots are already approaching 2016 levels in some parts of the state, according to an analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project. In Northern Virginia’s 8th Congressional District, applications have already exceeded the 2016 total, with 45,947 applications mailed so far this year compared to 35,848 total four years ago.”

“One metric expected to be less useful this year is the percentage of precincts reporting, a number used to track whether the vote counting is just getting started or close to complete. Because mailed ballots all fall under central absentee precincts, that percentage will be a less reliable indicator of where the counting stands.”

“‘The critical thing about Virginia is that we are ensuring that however you want to vote, you have the ability to do so safely and confident that your vote will count,’ Piper said. ‘You can vote by mail. And you can vote early in person for the entire 45-day period. And you can vote on Election Day if you so choose.’”