How to vote in Virginia: A 2023 VPM voter guide
From mail-in ballots to same-day registration, officials say there's a voting style for every lifestyle.
Stakes are high this year at Virginia’s ballot boxes: With all 140 seats in the General Assembly up for grabs, freshly redrawn district lines and dozens of retiring lawmakers, voters will make big decisions about the commonwealth's future Nov. 7.
In fact, they already are — early voting opened on Sept. 22.
Keith Balmer, general registrar for the city of Richmond, said early voting is just one of many options that can fit into all lifestyles and schedules.
“We have the options. You can vote by mail, you can vote early in person, or you can vote on Election Day,” Balmer said.
Balmer said the most important thing to do is make a plan: Check your registration status, decide which voting style fits your schedule, figure out where you need to go and what info you need and set a time to do it.
If you like the tradition of going to the polls, or if you’re a state employee and have the day off, voting on Election Day might be for you.
Polls will open on Nov. 7 at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. As always, anyone standing in line by the time polls close will be allowed to vote. Voters must show valid ID, which does not necessarily have to include a photo. A voter whose name is in the pollbook may sign an ID confirmation statement to vote on a regular ballot.
Acceptable forms include a Virginia driver’s license, U.S. passport or student ID issued by a Virginia school.
There are some important deadlines before Election Day, though.
This is the last day to register or change your address to vote on a regular ballot. However, any person eligible to vote may register and cast a provisional ballot after that deadline.
If you’re a homebody and would rather vote from the comfort of your couch — or you want the flexibility to vote when and where you please — the deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Oct. 27 at 5 p.m.
Voters who use an absentee ballot don’t have to leave their home, but they must put their ballot in the mail by Election Day — local registrars may count votes they receive in the mail for a limited period after Election Day, but only if they are postmarked by Nov. 7 or earlier.
Absentee ballots can also be left at registrar’s offices or in drop boxes — Richmond has three: at City Hall, the Office of Elections and at the Southside Community Services Center.
Virginia no longer has a witness requirement for absentee ballots. Instead, voters must provide their birth year and last four digits of their Social Security number.
If you're the type to get things done as early as possible, you’re in luck. Early in-person voting is underway, and will be available until Saturday, Nov. 4 at local registrar’s offices and satellite voting locations.
Richmond is operating three voting locations, each of which are open from Sept. 22 through Nov. 4. Operating hours for all locations are as follows: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.; and the two Saturdays before Election Day, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
- Richmond Office of Elections: 2134 W. Laburnum Ave., Richmond 23227
- Richmond City Hall: 900 E. Broad St., Richmond 23219
- Hickory Hill Community Center: 3000 E. Belt Blvd., Richmond 23234
Wannabe voters who miss the Oct. 16 registration deadline are not out of options. Virginia opened same-day registration in 2022, which permits unregistered Virginians to vote on a provisional ballot up until polls close on Election Day.
According to an elections department training document, provisional ballots “provide a way for people to vote whose voter registration or qualifications to vote are in question.” They are also available to registered voters without an ID, or for anyone who shows up at the polls and finds that their name isn’t in the pollbook.
Instead of being counted by a machine, provisional ballots will be counted — or denied — by local electoral boards in public meetings beginning the day after Election Day. Voters who cast a provisional ballot will be notified and may attend these meetings, but they are not required to be present for their ballot to be counted.
The boards may deny a ballot if they think a voter is ineligible, cast multiple ballots, voted in the wrong precinct and more. But voters who successfully register after Oct. 16 with required ID and information will generally not be denied.
Now until Nov. 6
If you’re voting on Election Day, Balmer said it is especially important to check what precinct you are voting in and your precinct’s sample ballot this year. The result of redistricting based on the 2020 U.S. Census is that maps for the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates have completely changed this year.
For some voters, that means their polling places have changed.
“If you’re still unsure about that, then you really need to check in with your local registrar’s office,” Balmer said.