Voting for the November elections begins today with two new changes, according to Bill Ney, the spokesman and vice chair of the Harrisonburg Electoral Board.
“I think it might be very hectic because everybody wants to be first, but after that, I think it will stretch out,” Ney said.
The first major change is that voters do not need to cite an excuse to vote absentee by mail or early in-person, Ney said. The last day to vote early in-person is Oct. 31 and any registered voters can vote early in-person.
A second major change is that registered voters will not need to show a photo ID to poll workers when going to vote.
“Almost anything with [a registered voter’s] name and address on it works, in other words, a utility bill will work,” Ney said.
Both changes are a result of legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, which went into effect on July 1.
To register to vote, a resident of a locality must fill out forms with their name, social security number, date of birth, as well as other personal information. Voters must be citizens over or 18 years of age by election day and cannot be a felon or mentally incapacitated, unless their ability to vote has been legally restored.
If a registered voter has no identification on them when they go to the polls, there is still a way their vote can still be counted, according to Ney.
“There’s a confirmation form they can fill out and swear that’s who they are and where they live,” Ney said. He added lying on the form is a felony offense.
As of Thursday evening, 25,450 city residents and 53,419 county residents have registered to vote in the upcoming election, according to data provided by both Ney and Lisa Gooden, the voter registrar of Rockingham County.
Oct. 13 is the last day to register to vote in the November election, Gooden said.
Just over 4,300 county residents and 2,571 city residents have so far been approved to vote absentee by mail this year, according to Gooden and Ney.
Absentee ballots by mail for approved applicants will begin to be sent out today, Ney and Gooden said.
There are measures in place to ensure those who received mailed ballots cannot also vote in-person, Ney said.
The last day to apply for an absentee ballot is Oct. 23, Gooden said.
The city had to deny 199 absentee applications due to residents filling out the application incompletely or incorrectly, Ney said. Gooden said the county had to deny roughly 350 applications for the same reasons.
Both Ney and Gooden said when the applications are denied, they are sent back with outlines on how to fill them out correctly. As well, both Ney and Gooden said they do not track how many of the previously denied applications are properly fixed by the applicant and then accepted by registrar staff.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is Oct. 23, Gooden said.
Early in-person voting will be held in the City Hall lobby at 409 S. Main St. for city voters.
For county voters, early in-person voting will be held in the Board of Supervisors meeting room in the Rockingham County Administration Center at 20 E. Gay St. in Harrisonburg.
The early in-person voting locations will be open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the Saturdays of Oct. 24 and 31 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Curbside voting will also be made available to those who cannot or don’t want to leave their cars to cast their vote, Ney and Gooden said. Other measures will be taken to reduce the chances of spreading COVID-19, according to Ney and Gooden.