Did your vote count? Virginia election officials address viral post

Posted at 10:18 AM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 19:01:34-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Department of Elections has addressed a social media post that raised questions about how to check whether your vote was counted.

Some voters expressed confusion and frustration on social media after they were directed to check the state election website and found their vote had not yet been counted.

"We've had calls from voters based on a viral social media post directing voters to check our website to see if their vote counted," the Virginia Department of Elections posted on Facebook.

"Please note, that data is not communicated to the Department of Elections automatically on Election Day. This data is sent to the Department of Elections only after the canvass occurs by local electoral boards in the days immediately following the election."

The department advised it could "take a few days" for the vote to appear online. "Please do not be alarmed," the post continued. "This is part of the normal process."

Shannon Riggs of Colonial Heights said her vote had not been credited on the state’s election website when she logged on Thursday morning.

“I was just totally stunned. Oh my gosh! My voted didn’t count? What is going on?” she asked.

Riggs reported the issue to the state who told her the account would take a couple of days to update.

“They should make sure they tell people this. This was not told to anyone before the issue came about,” Riggs said. “People need to know the absolute truth to make sure their votes and my vote counted.”

Department of Elections Commissioner Christopher Piper urged Virginians not to jump to conclusions.

“If you went in person on Election Day and physically put your ballot through the machine — at that point right there your ballot was counted,” Piper explained. “The fact of the matter is the voter credit is an application to your voter record.”

He said the voter’s Citizen Portal could take up to a week to be updated depending on how many absentee ballots the county has to canvass and certify. That deadline is on Tuesday, November 10.

“If you have those questions not to assume the worst,” Piper said. “Election officials are dedicated and passionate to the integrity of the elections.”

CBS 6 has not yet seen the "viral social media post" referred to by the Virginia Department of Elections.

Election officials also addressed concerns from voters who were told at the polls on Election Day that they were sent an absentee ballot.

Those voters told CBS 6 they were certain they didn’t request an absentee ballot.

Henrico County General Registrar Mark Coakley said the confusion arises from a change in voter registration law passed by the General Assembly in the Spring. Some voters may have forgotten they requested an automatic absentee ballot for all of the elections during the calendar year.

“By law, come November we are sending you a ballot because in March or February you checked the box asking to receive a ballot,” Coakley explained. “It’s a learning process for all of us.”

Coakley said his office will soon mail approximately 30,000 Henrico County voters whether or not they’d like to automatically continue receiving absentee ballots during the 2021 election season.

One Henrico County family was puzzled when their son received an official postmarked absentee ballot in the mail last month.

McEnery Garrett said he moved from Glen Allen to Arkansas in July 2019.

“You have to request an absentee ballot, but I never requested an absentee ballot. I’m still trying to figure out why one would’ve been sent,” Garrett recalled.

Garrett’s parents provided to CBS 6 photographs of the ballot and a “Voter Registration Cancellation Notice.” The notice dated October 16, 2020, which shows Garrett was removed from the county's voter list, was signed by Mr. Coakley.

On Thursday night, county and state election officials confirmed to CBS 6 they were researching the issue.