As an unprecedented Election Day arrives, most registered voters in Albemarle County and Charlottesville already have cast their ballots.
An estimated 60% of registered voters in the county and 52% in the city either have voted early in person or sent their ballots in via the mail, according to election officials. Traditionally, both localities have seen a turnout of between 75% and 80% of registered voters in presidential election years.
The high rate of early voting likely will lead to shorter lines Tuesday, said Lauren Eddy, deputy registrar for Albemarle. All polling locations in the county are prepared for social distancing and are taking various precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, she said.
Though the county anticipates a smooth day, Eddy urged voters to be mannerly with poll workers, many of whom are working a presidential election for the first time.
“Many of our poll workers from previous years fall into high-risk categories and so we’ve gotten a lot of new volunteers and workers,” she said. “Please be kind and patient with these new workers.”
COVID-19 protections will be in place, all county election workers will be wearing face masks and surfaces will be disinfected on a regular basis, she said.
Similarly, Charlottesville election officials are anticipating a smaller Election Day turnout than usual, due to all the early voting.
Jim Nix, of the city registrar’s office, said the city is expecting as many as 12,000 voters Tuesday, which is significantly less than usually seen.
Voters should wear masks and bring their own black or blue pens, he said. Though both masks and pens will be provided for those without, Nix said coming prepared will help the process go more smoothly.
Some minor delays may occur as poll workers disinfect surfaces, Nix said.
Election officials from both localities said they are not expecting any security concerns but police officials and commonwealth’s attorneys for the localities have met with election officials to discuss safety plans.
A joint news release from the Charlottesville and Albemarle County chiefs of police and commonwealth’s attorneys said that though an orderly and peaceful Election Day is anticipated, their organizations and offices are committed to investigating and prosecuting any violation of the law that involves the intimidation or harassment of citizens seeking to vote.
All polling locations in Virginia will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Two polling locations in Albemarle County have changed this year: Voters in the Branchlands Precinct will cast ballots at the Hillsdale Conference Center, 550 Hillsdale Drive; and voters in the Northside Precinct will go to Laurel Hill Baptist Church, 3959 Grand Forks Blvd.
Voter in the city and county may opt to vote outside through curbside voting if they wish to avoid going inside the building, according to news releases from the localities.
There will be ballot drop boxes at or near the door of all city and county polling places for voters who wish to bring completed mail-in ballots to a polling location Tuesday. Ballots must be inside the secrecy envelope provided with the ballot, and the statement on the envelope — including the voter’s registration address and signature — must be completed. Signature of a witness is not required.
Mailed ballots must be postmarked no later than Tuesday and received by the correct registrar’s office no later than noon Friday.
Any voter who has applied for and received a mail-in ballot but who has decided to vote in person may do so. However, they must bring their mail-in ballot with them when they vote in person so it can be exchanged for a fresh ballot.
Voters who applied for a mail-in ballot but either didn’t receive one, lost it or mailed it but are concerned it may not be received in time to be counted may vote via a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot will be counted once the respective registrar’s office has determined that it has not received a mailed ballot from the voter by the deadline.
Tuesday’s weather is anticipated to be sunny with a high of 63 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
What’s on the ballot?
In addition to the presidential elections between Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Joe Biden and Libertarian Jo Jorgensen, voters in Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene, Madison and Nelson will make their voices heard in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District race between Democrat Cameron Webb and Republican Bob Good.
Webb, a doctor, assistant professor of medicine and director of health policy and equity at the University of Virginia, has campaigned on issues related to expanding access to high-quality affordable health care, COVID-19 economic recovery and racial equity.
Webb also has highlighted his bipartisan experiences working as part of both the Trump and Barack Obama administrations.
Good, a former Liberty University athletics official who also served on the Campbell County Board of Supervisors, has described himself as a “bright-red biblical conservative,” and snagged the Republican nomination from Rep. Denver Riggleman in June during a drive-thru convention.
Good has highlighted his religious convictions, belief in small government and opposition to abortion.
The 5th District race, which tends to skew Republican, has seen its rating from UVa’s Center for Politics change over the past few months. As of Monday, the race was rated as leaning Republican, a change from previously being listed as a toss-up.
In the 7th Congressional District, incumbent Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger will face off against Republican Nick Freitas. The district includes Louisa and Orange counties.
Spanberger, a former CIA operations officer, ousted incumbent Republican Dave Brat in 2018, flipping the oft-red district.
Freitas won re-election to the Virginia House of Delegates last year through a successful write-in campaign after failing to file paperwork on time.
The election is considered one of the most competitive in the nation, though the Center for Politics has rated the district as “leans-Democrat.”
In a statewide election, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark R. Warner is running against Republican Daniel Gade.
Warner, a former Virginia governor who is seeking his third Senate term, largely has run on his experience and his plan for COVID-19 economic recovery.
Gade, an Army veteran who teaches at American University in Washington, D.C., secured the Republican nomination earlier this year during the only statewide primary. Gade has claimed that voters do not want a “career” politician and has pledged to be nonpartisan.
Referendums for two amendments to the Virginia Constitution are also on the ballot this year.
Amendment 1 seeks to establish a redistricting commission consisting of eight members of the General Assembly and eight citizens of the commonwealth that would be responsible for drawing the congressional and state legislative districts for the General Assembly.
Amendment 2 seeks to allow disabled veterans on total disability to own a vehicle that is totally free from state and local taxation.