Virginia lawmakers have adopted a package of laws that make it safer and easier for Virginians to cast their ballots during the coronavirus pandemic:
- The rules eliminate a previous requirement for voters to provide an excuse for voting absentee. Now any eligible voter can safely cast an absentee ballot from home. Absentee ballots will be mailed out to those who request one starting 45 days before Election Day.
- Expanded early voting means that anyone can vote in person starting 45 days before Election Day.
- A photo ID is no longer required at the polls, though you'll still need some form of identification or documentation.
- Election Day is now a state holiday, and many state employees have off.
Here's what else you need to know...
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
How do I register to vote?
You can easily register online. And in-person options abound: at your local voter registration office, at public libraries and various government offices, including the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), during normal business hours. The state Department of Elections website lists more locations where you can register. The deadline for registering in time to vote on Election Day is October 13.
How can I get an absentee ballot? Are there important deadlines?
You can request an absentee ballot in person at your local registrar of voters, or by printing and mailing the Department of Elections' application. In past years, voters needed an excuse to cast an absentee ballot, like illness or travel. But the new state voter laws allow anyone to vote absentee, no excuse necessary.
Keep in mind that absentee ballots won't be mailed until 45 days before the election, though you can submit your request before that. The deadlines for requesting an absentee ballot are Oct. 23 for mail requests and Oct. 31 in person. Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by noon on Nov. 6. State officials are waiving a witness signature requirement for absentee ballots this year.
When is Election Day? When are polls open?
Tuesday, November 3. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Can I vote before Election Day?
Yes, either by mail-in ballot or by early voting in person. Early in-person voting begins Sept. 18. You can vote at your local registrar's office or at a satellite voting location. Hours vary by location.
What form of identification do I need to vote?
A photo ID is no longer required, but you'll still need some form of identification or documentation at the polls. Options now include voter registration documents, utility bills and bank statements. Here's a full list of acceptable forms of identification
What is being done to make polling places safe from the coronavirus?
The federal and state governments have authorized millions of dollars to safeguard voting during the pandemic, which local election officials are using to buy masks, gloves, and sanitizer for poll workers, along with disinfectants to clean voting machines. In May, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered everyone over age 10 to wear masks in indoor public places, in addition to practicing social distancing.
Will I be able to vote in the same place I always have?
Yes, in most cases. City and county election officials may need to combine or move some locations, so it’s best to check with them before heading to the polls, or check the Department of Elections' citizen portal
What are the key races in the state?
- U.S. President
- U.S. Senate: Incumbent Mark Warner (D) vs. Daniel Gade (R)
- U.S. House: All 11 seats
Voting rules and procedures may change before Election Day. We’ll update this story if they do, so bookmark this page and check back.
Stay updated on the 2020 election at AARP.org/election2020.
--------- Written by Tamara Lytle, AARP, published July 17, 2020
AARP was founded in 1958 and has over 38 million members. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for people over the age of 50. AARP is well-known for its advocacy efforts, providing its members with important information, products and services that enhance quality of life as they age. They also promote community service and keep members and the public informed on issues relating to the over 50 age group.