RICHMOND, Va. -- Early voting, ahead of the November election, started Friday in Virginia.
New this year, voters can cast their ballot before Election Day without giving a reason why they are voting early.
State officials said, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more Virginians are expected to vote early in 2020 compared to 2016.
"The Department of Elections had received 824,000 requests for absentee ballots by mail," a spokesperson for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam wrote in an email. "For comparison, 566,000 votes were cast absentee in the 2016 General Election—half by mail."
Voters gathered outside the Richmond Registrar's Office before 8 a.m. Friday morning. Donna and Paul Sumner were third in line.
"I took off today and I wanted to make sure my vote counted," said Donna.
Paul added that for him, this election was like none other.
"This is an incredibly important vote, and I’ve been voting for a long time," said Paul. "Some years you do kind of feel like it’s routine. But no, not this time."
Standing in line behind the Sumners, was a family of three.
Beverly Bullock said with her underlying health condition, she wanted to avoid the long November lines, but couldn't let her voice go unheard.
"The more I see what’s going on in our society, the more I see what a privilege it is -- that we really need our voice to be heard," said Bullock. "I’m glad to have this opportunity to do that."
Governor Northam, who voted early and in-person Friday morning, encouraged Virginia voters to have a plan in place before Election Day.
"While the pandemic has made this an unprecedented election year, Virginia voters have several safe and easy ways to exercise their constitutional right to vote," Northam wrote in a statement. "I encourage every Virginia voter to know their options and make a plan for safely casting their ballot.”
There are three ways Virginians can vote ahead of Election Day:
Absentee by Mail
Beginning September 18, Virginia general registrars will mail absentee ballots to voters who request them. You can request a ballot online here. The last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is Friday, October 23 at 5 p.m.
All absentee ballots will include a return envelope with prepaid postage. Ballots with a postmark of November 3 or earlier will be accepted until noon on Friday, November 6.
You can also hand-deliver an absentee ballot to your local registrar’s office or returned to a secure drop-off location, which include any satellite voting location.
A list of drop-off locations is available on your county or city’s official website.
On Election Day, you can also drop off your completed absentee ballot at any polling place in the county or city in which you are registered to vote.
Early In Person
Starting September 18, you can vote absentee in person at your local registrar’s office or a satellite voting location identified by the registrar’s office. You can vote early in person through Saturday, October 31.
Of course, you can also vote in person on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, at your regular polling place. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.