Let The Voting Begin

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In-person absentee voting for the Nov. 3 elections starts this Friday, Sept. 18, at local registrars’ offices. There is expected to be a surge in absentee voting this year because of the pandemic. Voters in Virginia no longer have to state a reason for voting absentee.

The three Rockbridge area voting registrars have received hundreds of applications for mail-in absentee ballots. In Lexington, 21.5 percent of registered voters had applied by Monday. Registrars will begin mailing out ballots to applicants on Friday.

There are good reasons to vote absentee, even this far in advance of the election. The threat of COVID-19 makes it advisable to avoid personal interactions to the extent possible. Voters will likely have less opportunity for such interactions casting an absentee ballot at the registrar’s office in advance, rather than going to the polls on Election Day.

Voting absentee through the mail allows voters the option of avoiding interactions altogether. Lexington has installed a blue drop box outside City Hall for voters to cast their absentee ballots, should they choose not to use the postal service. In Buena Vista, there’s a drop box for absentee ballots outside the Municipal Building. Voters in any jurisdiction can also drop off their absentee ballots at their local registrars’ office during regular business hours and at their polling precincts on Election Day.

There are several important dates to remember this election season. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 13. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot by mail is Oct. 23. The deadline to make an in-person request for an absentee ballot is Oct. 31. Registrars’ offices will be open the last two Saturdays prior to the Nov. 3 election – on Oct. 24 and 31.

There is much on the ballot this year so voter participation is expected to be especially high. In addition to electing a president, a U.S. senator and a member of Congress and answering two questions on amending the state constitution, Rockbridge area voters will be electing a Lexington mayor and three members of City Council, a member of the Buena Vista School Board, four members of Glasgow Town Council and three members of Goshen Town Council.

We encourage local residents to consider casting an early absentee ballot. An advantage of early absentee voting is that it should result in polling places being a lot less crowded on Election Day. That would make voting safer and less time-consuming for those who do wait until Election Day to cast a ballot.

The three Rockbridge area voting registrars are confident of security measures in place to safeguard mailed absentee ballots. A bar code on the outside of the envelopes makes it possible to track ballots as they go through the mail. The registrars trust the local postal workers to do what they can to ensure mailed ballots arrive in their offices on time. Lexington registrar Jan Yowell noted that Lexington postmaster Scott Rogers made special trips to Richmond twice in recent years to retrieve ballots that might otherwise have not been received in time.

Many aspersions have been cast about the integrity of the vote in the upcoming elections. We’ve received assurances from our local registrars that “your vote will count,” irregardless of whether it is cast absentee in advance or at the polling precinct on Election Day.

Because of the change in state law allowing no-excuse absentee voting as well as the dedication of election officials who have put a secure system in place, exercising your right to vote doesn’t mean you have to endanger your health.

The News-Gazette

The News-Gazette Corp.
P.O. Box 1153
Lexington, VA 24450
(540) 463-3113

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