With the widened opportunities to vote this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there lies another option that the Albemarle County registrar says voters should avoid unless it is the only option: provisional ballots.
Signs posted at Albemarle’s Fifth Street County Office Building, where early in-person voting began last week, read: “If you have requested an absentee/mail ballot, you cannot vote as usual. You have to vote a provisional ballot.”
Provisional ballots can be used for a number of reasons to include lack of voter identification, if a mailed ballot never arrived, if a voter’s name is not in the pollbook or they’ve been marked as having voted already and they claim they have not. Using provisional ballots still allows residents to vote but takes more time as their identity is verified.
According to the Virginia Department of Elections, voters using a provisional ballot will have until noon on the Friday following the election to deliver copies of their identification or sign and submit an ID Confirmation Statement for their ballot to be counted.
Jake Washburne, the county’s voter registrar, said that avoiding a provisional ballot will save voters, election officers and the electoral board time.
“But, sometimes, it is the only option, and [I] certainly don’t want to discourage that if that is the case,” Washburne said.
As mail-in voting has been encouraged amidst the pandemic, some Virginian localities saw long lines of eager voters on Sep. 18, the first day of in-person voting.
With federal-level changes from the new U.S. Postal Service postmaster and expected higher volume of mail-in ballots, concern continues to grow over the efficacy of voting by mail.
Washburne said that if people have received their mail-in ballot but would feel more comfortable physically seeing their ballot go through the scanning machines, they can bring it to voting sites.
“They bring the ballot that they received in the mail to either the early voting site, or to their polling precinct on Election Day,” Washburne explained. “The election officers will void that ballot, remove the flag from their name on the electronic pollbooks, issue them a new ballot, and allow them to mark that ballot and put it through the scanning machine.”
He noted that while time-consuming, it is an option.
Virginia began sending out mail-in ballots on Sept. 18, when early in-person voting began. Ballots can be returned through mail, taken to local registrars, or dropped off at ballot drop boxes the city and county has provided.
With the various voting options, expected heavier use of mail-in ballots and need for social distancing at polls, officials urge residents to vote — whichever method they choose — as soon as they can this year.
In Charlottesville, early voting takes place in the registrar’s office, located in City Hall’s annex building at 120 Seventh St. NE. No more than two people will be allowed into the office at a time to ensure social distancing. Voting is available on a walk-in basis during normal office hours and also from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the final two Saturdays in October.
Albemarle’s in-person early voting is located in Conference Room A of the County Office Building at 1600 Fifth St. Extended. Early in-person voting takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Tuesdays, it lasts from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 24 and 31, voting will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
According to the Virginia Department of Elections, acceptable forms of ID are:
- Voter confirmation documents you received after you registered to vote
- Virginia DMV-issued Driver’s License or Identification Card
- Valid United States Passport
- Any ID card issued by the US, Virginia or a local Virginia government
- Any student ID card issued by a US university or community college
- Valid student ID issued by a public school or private school in Virginia
- Employer-issued photo ID card
- Any current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document with your name and address
- An ID Confirmation Statement