Albemarle County voters may cast their ballots at the County Office Building on 5th Street Extended starting on Sept. 18.
Nov. 3 will be the first election in which no-excuse voting by mail and early voting and early in-person voting, starting 45 days before the election and ending the Saturday before the election, are allowed.
The county faces some challenges in protecting volunteers, staff and voters from transmission of COVID-19, as well as limited parking at the building, officials said.
“We don’t know the exact volume that we might get from this early voting opportunity, but the projections were that they would be significant — up to 60% of people who vote,” said Lance Stewart, the county’s director of Facilities & Environmental Services, at the Board of Supervisors’ virtual meeting on Tuesday.
Starting Sept. 18, registered voters will be able to vote at the County Office Building at 1600 Fifth Street from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Voting will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays.
Early in-person voting will also be available from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on two Saturdays — Oct. 24 and Oct. 31.
The deadline to register or change registration information is 5 p.m. on Oct. 13.
Stewart said the Electoral Board is building on what it learned from the June election and making improvements.
“Of course we will be implementing some site-specific measures at our 5th Street office building to make sure that physical distancing is observed,” he said. “Then the Electoral Board and voter registration staff, in concert with our communications office are really pushing citizens to vote by mail.”
Requested ballots will be mailed on Sept. 18. The deadline to request a mailed ballot is 5 p.m. Oct. 23. Mailed ballots must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3 and received by the registrar’s office not later than 12 p.m. Nov. 6.
Voters can also hand-deliver their ballots to the 5th Street County Office Building.
The Virginia House of Delegates and Senate passed bills to create drop boxes for absentee ballots at local election offices, fund prepaid return postage for people voting by mail and allow voters who make technical errors on their ballots to correct them as long as their original ballot was cast by Oct. 31. Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to sign the bill into law, and it would go into effect immediately.
Currently, many county employees who work at the 5th Street County Office Building are teleworking, and Stewart said it will stay that way.
“We estimate a minimum of 100 parking spaces dedicated for early voting, which we think will be sufficient to meet the need,” he said. “Then we’ll be putting up directional signage, to facilitate parking, queuing of people as they wait to go into the polling location and implementing a one-way entrance and a one-way exit point, so that people don’t have to pass each other.”
County Registrar Jake Washburne previously said that the county will pre-process absentee ballots following the same procedures they would on Election Day.