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Voters have more options this year

early voting

There are multiple opportunities for voters to avoid the stress of long lines on Election Day, Nov. 3.

Prince Edward County Director of Elections Lynette Wright said the main change in the election process this fall will be the ability for people to vote early without having to state a reason. Previously, voters had to give a reason why they would not be able to vote on Election Day.

Early voting begins Sept. 18 and runs through Oct. 31.

“This should, I would think, alleviate lines,” Wright said. “You’ve got actually (44) days to vote just because you want to.”

This early voting will take place on the second floor of the Prince Edward County Courthouse, located at 111 South St. in Farmville.

“It’s going to be just like you’re going on Election Day. You just come in, show your ID, get checked in, get your ballot, vote (and) you are done,” she said. “And our office hours here are going to be Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. And then the last two Saturdays in October, which are Oct. 24 and Oct. 31, (we’re) also open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.”

Wright also offered a helpful explanation of the process of voting absentee, for those who wish to do so. She noted there has already been a significant uptick in her receipt of absentee voting applications.

“For absentee voting by mail, (voters) can get an application,” she said. “Either they can download it off the website, which is at www.elections.virginia.gov, and they can fill it out and mail it in.”

Or they can apply completely online without having to mail anything in if they have a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles ID or driver’s license, she said. They can put in their driver’s license number, their social security number and submit the application online.

“It comes straight to our computer within an hour, so that way they don’t have to worry about it being mailed,” she said. “The other option is if they don’t have internet, they can call us here at (434) 392-4767, request an application, we mail it out to them, they fill out the application, get it back to us.”

Wright stated that as of Monday, Aug. 17, she had approximately 600 completed absentee voting applications sitting in her office. “The ballots will not get mailed until Sept. 18 — that’s when we start, so there’ll be a huge mailing on that day,” she said. “So I take them to the post office (and) mail them certified mail. The state has started doing an intelligent barcode mailing system.”

She said she has not used the system yet, as she has not printed any labels yet. But when she does, they are supposed to have a barcode that will allow the voter to actually go to www.elections.virginia.gov and track their ballot.

Wright said she is also going to list the link on the county’s website to help voters track their ballots.

“The last day to register to vote or change your voter information is Oct. 13,” she said. “You do not have to re-register if you are currently registered, and anybody can call and check with us to make sure they are registered. That way it’ll save them a lot of work and save a lot of taxpayer money from us sending out extra mail that doesn’t need to be (sent).”

She said Oct. 23 at 5 p.m. is the deadline for requesting a ballot by mail. This means a completed application must be in her office in her hand by 5 p.m. that day. “It can’t be postmarked,” she said. “It has to be in my hand so I can enter it that evening and be able to mail (it) out the next day.”

Oct. 31 is the last day to submit an absentee ballot to the registrar’s office in person, she stated.

Wright said she is not sure yet if Prince Edward will utilize lockboxes, which would be boxes placed somewhere in the county where voters could submit their ballots.

“At the moment, we are still waiting on the General Assembly’s special session for any additional election administration instructions, so I do not know if we would be doing it until we hear from them, until they let us know if we can do that,” she said.

Asked what protections have been put in place to help protect against fraud, Wright pointed to the intelligent barcode system she mentioned prior.

“I think the intelligent barcode is one thing that the state just activated for every county in the state of Virginia so that people could go to that website and track their ballot,” she said. “It doesn’t track it to the office, it just tracks it to the post office that’s in your area. But still, that allows you to track your ballot. I think that’s one thing that they have done to help reassure people.”