A VIRGINIAN’S GUIDE TO VOTING IN THE NOVEMBER 2020 GENERAL ELECTION
A General Election will be held on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States. And depending on your particular locality or district, you may also be voting for other federal, state, and/or local officials. This year’s ballot also includes two proposed amendments to the Constitution of Virginia, one regarding redistricting and one regarding taxation.
The following article is intended to give you the basics to ensure that your vote will count in the upcoming General Election. For more detailed information go to the Virginia Department of Election (“VDE”) website. If you are in the military or living abroad, also click here: https://www.elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/military-overseas/.
To cast a ballot in November you must first become a registered voter. The deadline to register for the 2020 General Election is Tuesday, October 13, 2020. You may register to vote here, verify or update your existing information if needed, or contact your local registrar for help.
To be eligible to vote in Virginia, you must be a Virginia resident, a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old on Election Day, and not registered to vote in another state. You cannot have been adjudicated a felon or mentally incapacitated; however, a felon can have their voting rights restored by the appropriate authority. For more information on the restoration of voting rights, visit https://www.restore.virginia.gov/.
Qualified voters with a valid Virginia driver’s license may register to vote online or download and complete the registration form in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, or Korean. Or you may pick up a copy at your local registrar, the DMV, a state or local government office providing public assistance services, an armed forces recruitment office, or a public library. The completed application can be filed with the local registration office or mailed to the address printed on the form. Mailed applications must be postmarked on or before October 12, 2020, in order to vote on November 3.
Once you have submitted your registration form, you should receive an information card or other correspondence confirming your registration status. If you do not receive one within 30 days, contact your local registrar’s office to make sure your application has been processed.
In Person Voting
On Election Day, the polls will be open for voting from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. As long as you are in line by 7:00 p.m., you will be able to vote, even if you cannot cast your ballot before 7:00 p.m.
When appearing to vote, you will be asked to present a form of identification. Among the numerous forms of acceptable identification are a Virginia DMV-issued ID (even if expired), a valid U.S. passport, a valid employer-issued photo ID, a valid student ID issued by a school located in Virginia (whether public or private), or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or other government document containing your name and address.
Even if you show up at the polling place without an acceptable form of identification, you can sign an ID Confirmation Statement affirming your identity under penalty of perjury that will allow you to vote a regular ballot. You also may choose to vote using a provisional ballot. If you must vote using a provisional ballot, your vote will not count unless you submit a copy of a valid form of identification or an ID Confirmation Statement which must be received by your local registrar by 12:00 noon on Friday, November 6, 2020.
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you may wish to vote an absentee ballot. Although absentee ballots can be cast in person, voting by mail is likely to be the preferred means of voting. New this year: voters are no longer required to state a reason they wish to vote absentee; voters may simply opt to vote absentee for any reason whatsoever.
To cast an absentee ballot in person, you will need to visit your local registrar’s office. The same identification requirements of in-person voting on Election Day apply for in-person absentee voting. You may cast your in person absentee vote as early as 45 days prior to election day, September 18, 2020, but not later than 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 31, 2020. Beware that some local registrars are not open on Saturdays, in which case you must appear by Friday, October 30. However, many local registrars may be open on the Saturday before Election Day even if not normally open on Saturdays at other times of the year. Contact your local registrar for details.
To request an absentee ballot by mail, you can either apply online or complete the application form and return the completed, signed form to your local registrar’s office by mail, fax, or scanned attachment to an email. The application must be received by your local registrar no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, October 23, 2020. Once your application is processed, you will receive your absentee ballot in the mail. The registrar cannot mail an absentee ballot to you until 45 days before Election Day, September 18, 2020. Some first-time voters cannot vote absentee by mail, so click here for more information or contact your local registrar if this applies to you.
To vote an absentee ballot, there are several strict requirements to be aware of, and failure to follow them could invalidate your ballot. Although detailed instructions will be enclosed in your packet, here are the highlights:
- You must perform the acts of voting in the presence of a witness. [*See note below.]
- You must vote the ballot in the presence of your witness AND you must open the envelope containing the ballot (referred to as “Envelope A”) in the presence of your witness.
- You must sign the completed ballot, place it in a different pre-addressed envelope (referred to as “Envelope B”) and seal it. You must not put anything else in Envelope B.
- You must fill in all of the blank spaces on the “Statement of Absentee Voter” listed on the outside of Envelope B, and both you and your witness must sign in the spaces provided.
- You must return Envelope B with the voted ballot inside either:
- by mail (USPS or commercial delivery service), postmarked no later than Election Day, November 3, 2020. The registrar must receive your mailed ballot no later than 12:00 noon on Friday, November 6, 2020, or your vote will not count; OR
- hand-deliver the ballot to your local registrar by (including an exterior drop-off box which will be open 24/7) 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, November 3, 2020 as long as you are in line to drop off an absentee ballot by 7:00 p.m., the ballot will be counted if otherwise valid.
Military & Overseas Voting
If you are an absent military or overseas citizen eligible to vote in the election, you may view your voter registration status, register to vote, and submit an absentee ballot application electronically for a specific election or any elections up through the next year using the Department of Elections voter registration portal.
A driver’s license or identification card issued by the Virginia DMV is required to complete the process paperlessly. If you do not have a DMV-issued ID, you may also apply by using the federal postcard application (FPCA), available at www.fvap.gov. You can submit your FPCA by scanned email attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org or via fax to (804) 371-0194. Detailed instructions are provided in the Virginia Voting Assistance Guide.
If you do not receive your state ballot in time, you may vote using a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB), available at www.fvap.gov.
What is on the Ballot?
You can identify all of the state and local offices and, if applicable, ballot measures that are expected to be on the ballot by viewing the Candidate List. A list of all candidates registered with the Federal Election Commission to run for President of the United States can be found here.