This election season is off to a crazy start…and the real fun hasn’t even begun yet. If you haven’t already seen the nonsense online, get ready, but don’t believe everything you hear or read. The reality is, well, more real—we have a sitting president who has openly said that he won’t leave, a Trump donor and now U.S. postmaster general undermining the postal service, not to mention a pandemic on our hands that has already claimed nearly 200,000 lives in the U.S.
Sorry to sound a little doomsday, but the voting part? It’s pretty simple and it’s pretty great. At the end of the day, we have more options to exercise our right to vote than ever! The Democratic-led General Assembly recently passed laws making it easier and safer to cast ballots this year. The options are plentiful with no-excuse absentee voting—vote from home by mail, vote early in person at your local registrar’s office, or request your ballot by mail and return it to one of the drop boxes coming soon to precincts and satellite locations near you.
Requesting an absentee ballot is super easy. Fill out the quick online form or print the form and deliver it to your local registration office in person or by mail.
It only feels a little tricky to navigate after requesting a ballot because of the options to return it. A few key dates to keep in mind:
- Friday, Sept. 18: Absentee voting begins! You can start voting in person at your elections office on this date. (This is also when ballots will begin to be mailed if applied for online).
- Tuesday, Oct. 13: Deadline to register or update registration address. Check or update your registration online at www.vote.elections.virginia.gov.
- Friday, Oct. 23: Last day to apply for an absentee ballot by mail.
- Saturday, Oct. 31: Last day to vote early in-person.
- Monday, Nov. 2: Last day to request an emergency absentee ballot, if criteria are met.
- Tuesday, Nov. 3: Election Day. Polls are open from 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. (if you are in line by 7 p.m. you can vote).
- Friday, Nov. 6: Your mailed ballot must be received by the local registrar’s office by noon in order to be counted.
If you still have questions, you are likely not alone. Check out this handy “Election and Voter FAQ page” on the Virginia Department of Elections site.
Voting by mail is not new or untried. Since the Civil War, special considerations have been given to provide ballots to those not able to appear in person. The U.S. military routinely votes by mail. “Absentee” or mail voting now exists in every state, and in two-thirds of states (now including Virginia!) a person needs no qualifying reason to vote by mail. Drop boxes? Also, not new. Look up Colorado and Washington State if you need more information to convince your family or friends.
Make no mistake—the current president and others do not want your vote to count. The USPS is under attack, as is democracy. Fortunately, the truth is that you do have the power to vote safely and securely this year.
However you decide to vote this year, please make a plan now. Drop off your absentee ballot at your local registrar’s office Sept 18–Oct 31. Vote from home by mail or utilize the drop boxes for contactless options. Of course, if you would prefer to vote in-person, that option will still be available and will follow CDC recommendations for public safety.
Everyone in our community should be able to vote and be confident that their vote counts. As of Sept 7, more than 660,000 voters had applied for absentee ballots, more than two and a half times as many as the final number in 2016. Regardless of how we choose to vote, our most vulnerable neighbors, like seniors, people with underlying conditions, and people with disabilities, have the opportunity to participate in our democracy while protecting their health.
This year, you have options. What is your plan to vote in 2020?