A third of the votes are in

The election like no other is about to come to an end, as voters plan their trip to the polls on Nov. 3.

It shouldn’t be quite as hectic next Tuesday as initially feared, given that a third of Louisa County registered voters have already cast their ballots. The number of early voters rose rapidly at the end of last week, with 408 people voting in person on Saturday.

To date, of 26,940 registered voters in the county, 5,836 have made their choices in person and 2,866 mailed or delivered absentee votes, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. There were still 865 people earlier this week who had not returned their absentee ballots. 

The decision to open a satellite early voting location at Louisa Arts Center has paid dividends, said Louisa Registrar Cris Watkins, with many citizens opting to go there rather than the county office building to avoid crowds.

“The last several days, more people have voted there than here,” she said. “It’s less walking, and if someone’s in a wheelchair, it’s easier for them.” 

The last day to vote early is Oct. 31. Both early voting locations will be open that day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On Nov. 3, polls open at 6 a.m. at the 15 precincts and close at 7 p.m. Watkins expects results to start coming in from the various voting locations fairly soon afterwards.

The most common error on absentee ballots is how voters write down their address, Watkins said. Others forget to sign after they vote. In the past, voters had to obtain a signature from a witness in order to cast an absentee ballot, but a Virginia judge ruled that requirement should not be enforced in the general election. The registrar’s office has to notify a voter of their error within three days of receiving an absentee ballot, to give them a chance to fix it.

Given that voter turnout is always much higher for a presidential election than in other years, Watkins and the Louisa Electoral Board began planning well ahead of time to hire more poll workers. They did not know then that the Virginia General Assembly would allow early voting to start 45 days before the election, taking some of the pressure off.

Most of the 15 voting precincts will have at least seven staff on Election Day, with exceptions for precincts that have limited space. The registrar’s office also must provide room if requested for poll observers assigned by the political parties. 

“They’re just there to hear who’s voting,” Watkins said. “They have their lists and they listen to who’s checking in. The poll workers have to repeat the voter’s name so they can hear it.”

Even if they requested an absentee ballot, people have the option of turning in their ballot and voting in person instead, Watkins said. But she cautioned that if a person requested an absentee ballot, they need to have it in hand when they come to vote. Otherwise, they will have to cast a “provisional” ballot. The electoral board will determine during the post-election canvass whether provisional ballots can be counted. 

This year the canvass will last until Nov. 7, since mailed ballots just have to be postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive in the registrar’s office by noon on Nov. 6 to be counted.

Besides voting in person or mailing in a ballot, citizens also have the option this year of depositing their votes in a drop box at the county office building or a “drop bag” at the arts center. Between 10 and 30 voters a day have gone that route, Watkins said.

Voters still need identification in order to vote in person, although they do not have to present a photo ID. Among the acceptable forms of ID are a Virginia driver’s license, even if it is expired; an ID issued by another government agency or an employer; a passport; a utility bill; bank statement; or a paycheck. A complete list of options can be found at elections.virginia.gov. A voter who does not have proper ID will be asked to sign a statement confirming they are the registered voter they claim to be.

Citizens can check where to vote on the state elections website or at this page: louisacounty.com/453/Voter-Registration.

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