December 6, 2023

Early voting in Virginia’s legislative elections kicked off on Friday, Sept. 22, and tons of of hundreds of Virginia voters are anticipated to solid their ballots forward of Election Day.

Early voting within the commonwealth is handy and easy, however it was not all the time so. And relying on which political celebration controls the Normal Meeting subsequent 12 months, it could not all the time be.

In Virginia, “early voting” is a time period that refers to what’s technically absentee voting – both in-person or by mail. All in-person early/absentee ballots have to be solid previous to Election Day, in fact; the final day for in-person early voting in 2023 is Saturday, Nov. 4, by 5 p.m. In-person early votes have to be solid at your county’s voter registrar’s workplace throughout its regular enterprise hours – sometimes Monday by way of Friday from 8 or 9 a.m. till 5 p.m., however the days and instances these workplaces are open differ by locality, so be certain to test along with your county’s personal workplace.

A few of Virginia’s bigger counties have satellite tv for pc voting areas obtainable throughout this era, as nicely – you’ll be able to test right here to seek out out if yours is considered one of them.

On Saturday, Oct. 28, and Saturday, Nov. 4, voters statewide who wish to vote early however can’t make it work throughout the week will have the ability to solid their ballots at their native voter registration workplace or a satellite tv for pc voting location.

Any voter who needs to solid their poll early – both in particular person or by mail – can accomplish that for any cause in any respect, however this was not all the time the case.

Till 2020, early voters needed to choose a cause from a prescribed record of authorized excuses to solid their ballots earlier than Election Day. These causes included navy deployment, being bodily away from your property county or metropolis on Election Day, having a incapacity, attending faculty away from residence, or having to work and commute for 11 or extra of the 13 hours the polls are open on Election Day.

However after Democrats gained full trifecta management of Virginia authorities in 2019 – governorship, state Home, state Senate – they wasted no time in passing laws designed to make poll field entry easier. 

Home Invoice 1, launched within the 2020 legislative session, handed each Democratic-controlled chambers and was signed into regulation by Democratic governor Ralph Northam. It eliminated the necessity to have one of many prescribed excuses to vote early, and it allowed Virginians to vote early in particular person as much as 45 days previous to an election.

The steep uptick in early voting numbers in that November’s election means that Virginians had been ready for this modification. When early voting grew to become available in 2020, the variety of Virginians who voted forward of Election Day jumped greater than 18-fold – from about 144,000 voters to virtually 2.7 million. That quantity has dropped within the years since, however a bit over 30% of the citizens has voted early for the previous two elections. In 2022, greater than twice as many citizens solid ballots early than within the earlier midterm elections in 2018.

The nationwide GOP started attacking the legitimacy of voting by mail in 2020 with false claims of fraud, however each this and early in-person voting have been well-liked with Republicans and Democrats alike within the commonwealth.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin is even making a selected push on behalf of his celebration to persuade extra GOP voters to solid their ballots earlier than Election Day. In July, he launched a brand new initiative to encourage extra Republicans to reap the benefits of the legal guidelines Democrats handed to make voting early simpler.

Paradoxically, Youngkin’s Republican allies within the legislature have repeatedly tried to roll again or repeal Virginia’s prolonged early voting interval – efforts that have been blocked by the Democratic majority within the state Senate.

This 12 months alone, GOP lawmakers pushed payments that will shorten the early voting interval from 45 days to simply two weeks; reinstate the record of prescribed causes required to vote early; and remove the everlasting absentee voter record, which permits voters to enroll to obtain mail-in ballots in each election as a substitute of getting to request one every time.

To focus on the beginning of early voting in Virginia’s 2023 Normal Meeting elections on Friday, each Democratic and Republican lawmakers held kickoff occasions aimed toward encouraging extra voters from every celebration to solid their ballots earlier than Election Day.

The Virginia Home Democratic Caucus was swift to focus on the hypocrisy of Republicans encouraging a technique of voting they tried to curb simply months in the past.

“Democrats have been making it simpler for Virginians to vote and vote early for years now,” stated Home Democratic Caucus communications director Morgan Hopkins. “When Democrats had the bulk, the Commonwealth went from the forty ninth hardest state to vote into the eleventh best, whereas the Republicans have labored to make it tougher for Virginians to vote at each flip. Simply this 12 months MAGA Republicans within the Home voted to restrict early and absentee voting. They won’t cease.”

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood’s chief political correspondent. She can be the nation’s foremost professional in state politics with virtually 20 years of expertise in statehouse machinations, and her comedian guide assortment might be greater than yours.