By Allison Brown and Wendy Frieman
Elections matter. And before you cast your vote in the Nov. 3 election, educate yourself on updates to Virginia’s election laws. Virginia even expanded voting access in a special legislative session in the past month.
Make your plan to vote now — whether it’s vote by mail, early voting or going to the polls on Nov. 3. Here are seven things you can do to make sure your vote counts.
- Take advantage of Virginia’s new voting flexibilities. Remember that long list of reasons for qualifying to vote absentee? It’s gone! For November, any registered voter can vote early, either by mail or in-person at the Registrar’s office. If you would like to vote by mail, put in your ballot request now, online, at Virginia’s Citizen Portal, https://vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation. You must request the ballot by Friday, Oct. 23 at the latest, but don’t wait. If you’ve already requested your ballot, it will arrive after Sept. 18, and you can check its status at the link above.
- Learn about mail-in ballots. You’ll need to sign the mail-in ballot. Because of a settlement with League of Women Voters-Virginia and the American Civil Liberties Union finalized on Aug. 21, you will not need a witness signature on your mail-in ballot. Cast your mail-in ballot with confidence — based on a new state law, the Registrar will be able to alert you if there is an error in your absentee ballot up until the Friday before Election Day, allowing you time to recast a corrected ballot.
- Complete and mail your ballot soon after you receive it. The state will send an envelope, and a new law provides for prepaid postage. Ballots must be postmarked on or before Tuesday, Nov. 3 and received in the registrar’s office no later than noon on Friday, Nov. 6 to be counted, if mailed. Nationally, the most common reason ballots are rejected is that they arrive late. The envelope for your ballot has a barcode printed on it, so you’ll be able to check the status of your ballot at the Citizen Portal after you mail it.
Alternatively, you will be able to take your mail-in ballot to the Registrar’s Office when you’re ready to cast it. The Registrar will have a dropbox for you to use for dropping your ballot outside City Hall (300 Park Ave.). There will be a dropbox at the polls also.
- Know your early voting options. Early voting began Friday, September 18, at the Registrar’s office, on the first floor of City Hall — weekdays between 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. You will be able to early vote on two Saturdays — Oct. 24 and 31. Saturday, Oct. 31 is the last day of early voting. You may deliver your absentee ballot to the Registrar’s office during this time period, but you may not deliver ballots for other people. All early ballots — those sent by mail and those cast in-person — are counted on election day in Virginia, as if the ballots were cast in a polling place.
- If you are going to the Registrar’s office or to the polls, bring your identification. This year, it does not have to be a photo ID. In fact, voter ID is not absolutely required. If you don’t bring a voter ID, you can sign an ID statement affirming your identity, and you will be able to vote a regular ballot. If you do not sign an ID statement, you may vote using a provisional ballot. If you requested a mail-in ballot and go to the polls instead, bring your mail-in ballot to turn it in.
- There is a City Council Election. Learn about the three candidates in the upcoming Falls Church Special Election for one City Council seat, also on Nov. 3: Debbie Hiscott, Joshua Shokoor, and Simone Pass Tucker. They could be heard directly at our virtual forum, which occurred on Sept. 23 at 7:30 p.m.
- Consider the constitutional amendment referenda that will be on the ballot. One amendment provides for citizen representation in drawing Virginia legislative districts so that legislators are not the only voices determining districts. The second provides for a specific tax exemption for veterans — it would exempt one automobile or pickup truck from state and local property taxes for veterans who have a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability.
Finally, don’t plan on staying up all night on Nov. 3 to get election results. Because of the anticipated heavy volume of mail-in ballots, it is possible that many election results may not be available until days or weeks after the election.
Finding it hard to keep track of all these dates and requirements? Find your polling place and other non-partisan election information at vote411.org.
Allison Brown and Wendy Frieman are Co-Presidents with the League of Women Voters Falls Church