This year’s election is still more than 50 days away, but voting will begin next week.
The early voting program launched in response to the pandemic last year is now standard operating procedure in the commonwealth, with residents permitted to cast their ballots for the Nov. 2 election in person or in the mail starting Friday, Sept. 17.
On the ballot are the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general; all 100 seats in the House of Delegates; seats on the town councils in Round Hill, Middleburg and Purcellville; and three county government bond questions.
The 2020 general election saw a raft of major changes to Virginia voting law amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Long subject to the Voting Rights Act, which put the commonwealth under increased federal oversight to deter racial discrimination in voting laws, the state in 2020 passed laws reinforcing the right to vote such as allowing no-excuse absentee voting and repealing the requirement to present a photo ID. The local Office of Elections built on that by placing ballot drop-off boxes at more than a dozen locations across the county.
Loudoun went on to see not only record turnout, but record early voting turnout. Loudoun had already cleared 50% voter turnout by the time Election Day arrived.
Loudoun General Registrar Judy Brown said it’s unlikely this year’s election for state and municipal offices will see quite that kind of turnout. But all of the same options for easier voting remain in place.
When early voting begins Sept. 17, it will be available only at the Office of Elections in Leesburg. But on Saturday, Oct. 18, that will expand to early voting sites across the county, with ballot drop boxes returning to public libraries. That also comes as the library system recently announced expanded hours, including Sunday hours for most libraries.
“The public didn’t’ really know that was thing that was going to be going forward, but I think it’s a good thing,” Brown said.
Vote reporting also got a tweak this year, with early voting tallies expected to be reported as soon as polls close after a new law authorized elections officials to start counting those ballots sooner. Previously, they could not begin counting those votes until polls closed on Election Day.
New laws this year also entitle disabled voters to curbside voting, permit absentee voting on Sundays if local registrars or boards of election choose to offer it—Loudoun will—and provide voters an opportunity to correct absentee ballots that have been filled out incorrectly in some circumstances. And another law prohibits any voting qualifications, standards, or procedures from being imposed or applied in way that impedes the right to vote of anyone based on race, color, or language.
Some changes won’t be as obvious at the ballot box.
“To be frankly honest with you, the lesson that we’ve learned is putting into place some better chain of custody processes, just because of all of the questions that we had from people after the November election, to make sure that we’re thinking more on the lines of making sure that we’re accountable for everything,” Brown said.
And unless something changes in the pandemic, there will be one more change from last year that returns—the county government currently requires face coverings inside government buildings, which includes the Office of Elections.
Sept. 17 will also be the day the first batch of vote-at-home ballots are mailed out. The voter registration deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 12; voters have until 5 p.m. to register in person at the Office of Elections, or until midnight to do it online. The last day to request a ballot by mail will be Friday, Oct. 22 by 5 p.m., and the last day of early voting will be Saturday, Oct. 30. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Learn more at Loudoun.gov/vote.