Despite President Donald Trump’s public claims warning of the dangers and potential fraud of absentee voting, local officials continue to laud the safety and sanctity of voting by mail and encourage Virginians to cast their ballots any way they choose.
Earlier in 2020, Governor Northam signed HB1 and SB 111 expanding opportunities for absentee voting in the state. The new legislation allows for early voting 45 days prior to an election without a stated excuse. Prior law required absentee/early voters to provide a reason from a standard list why they could not vote on Election Day. Concerns over spread of COVID-19 inspired the legislation. Northam also signed several other bills this year including one removing the requirement of showing a photo ID to cast a ballot and another making Election Day a state holiday. Also new this year is the extension of the polling hours, moving closing time from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Since taking office in 2018, Northam has advocated for legislation to make voting more accessible.
“Voting is a fundamental right, and these new laws strengthen our democracy by making it easier to cast a ballot, not harder,” said Northam. “No matter who you are or where you live in Virginia, your voice deserves to be heard. I’m proud to sign these bills into law.”
Madison County Director of Elections and General Registrar Lauren Eanes said residents that are concerned about in-person voting have several options for the November election. Residents can submit a vote-by-mail application or vote early, in person from Sept. 18 – Oct. 31 during business hours Monday - Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The registrar’s office will also be open for early voting the last two Saturdays of October, Oct. 24 and 31, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Eanes said to vote early in-person, a voter needs an acceptable form of identification such as a driver’s license, government issued ID or voter registration card. She will check in the voter, give them their ballot and once marked it will get inserted into the machine, just like on Election Day.
Both the Virginia Democratic Party and the Virginia Republican Party are encouraging people to use absentee and vote-by-mail this season and have sent out ballot requests to party faithful. Eanes said so far all the ballot request forms from both major parties and the Center for Voter Information are accurate and legitimate.
Any voter who sends a request for an absentee ballot will have their ballot mailed from Sept. 18 through Oct. 23.
The deadline to register to vote in the November election is Tuesday, Oct. 13. Mail in and in-person registration to vote must be received by 5 p.m., online registrations must be received by 11:59 p.m.
The deadline to request an absentee by-mail ballot is 5 p.m. Oct. 23 and ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday, Nov. 3 and received by the Registrar by Friday, Nov.6 at noon for the vote to count.
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