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Absentee ballots abundant for June 23 primary

Virginia’s June primary elections are almost here, and the effects of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic may make the level of absentee ballot voting this year one for the record books.

According to Lindsey Taylor, registrar and director of elections for Buckingham County, voter registration and voter information updates are down this year compared to last year. However, mail-in registrations and updates are up by 79%.

“Even with it being multiple elections, registration is down in comparison,” she said.

Taylor also said that when looking back at the last November elections, requests for absentee ballots have definitely increased.

Taylor said the difference in numbers may be heavily impacted by DMV closures. DMV registration and changes are down 71% due to DMV closures during the shutdown. She said there were also more new registrants last year compared to this year.

“We’re in uncharted waters,” Prince Edward County General Registrar Lynette Wright said Wednesday in reference to the coronavirus’ effects on election data gathered by the office to prepare for June 23. “There’s no using past elections to judge anything.”

She added Prince Edward’s absentee ballots, like Buckingham, have risen immensely.

According to Wright, most of Farmville’s May 19 town election votes were absentee. On top of that, she said the rate of absentee ballots in May were comparable to an average presidential election.

“And I’ve had one town election where no one voted absentee before,” she added.

Wright said that after July 1, early voting will go into effect for the first time in Virginia. Voters will be able to come into the office and vote or mail in their ballots for November’s general election up to 45 days early. As a result, she has been preparing for a large influx of early voters.

In looking to the future, Wright said she anticipates early voting and absentee ballots will remain a trend.

Some have said protests and national calls for social justice and law enforcement reform after the May 25 death of George Floyd have caused spikes in voter registration across the country. In Prince Edward County, protesters engaging in a march throughout the town Sunday, June 14, were able to receive assistance in registering to vote at a booth stationed by the Farmville LOVE sign.

Taylor said as registration for the primaries was cut off May 26, the registrar’s office has not been able to see new registrations that have come in since that date and won’t be able to view or process those registrations until after June 23. She said she has, however, seen a spike in phone calls and office visits by voters asking about registration.

Cumberland County Registrar Marlene Watson said she had not seen a large difference in registration compared to previous elections, although she, too, had noticed an increase in absentee ballots.

The latest voters can register to vote in the November general elections is Oct. 13, and all mail-in absentee ballots for November must be requested by Oct. 23.

Taylor said voters can still vote absentee in-person through 4:30 p.m. Saturday, June 20, and curbside voting is available at the office.

For this year’s June 23 Democratic primary, Senator Mark R. Warner is running unopposed.

In the 5th Congressional District, candidates include R. D. Huffstetler Jr., B. Cameron Webb, Claire C. Russo and John D. Lesinski.

For this year’s June 23 Republican primary, candidates for Senate include Daniel M. Gade, Thomas A. Speciale II and Alissa A. Baldwin.

In Virginia, political parties decide for themselves whether to nominate their candidates via a primary election or a convention. According to Ballotpedia.com, Virginia’s 5th Congressional District Republican Committee reported that Bob Good received 58% of the vote to incumbent Denver Riggleman’s 42% at the Republican Party convention in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District on Saturday, June 13.