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Virginia

There are several issue areas in which Virginia has opportunities to improve voter access. Virginia has implemented a wide variety of reforms in the last year, and should continue this progress by expanding ballot return options, implementing a signature verification process, improving ballot tracking, and establishing vote centers. These improvements will bring Virginia one step closer to a more safe, efficient, and voter-friendly election process. As always, while policy is important, effective implementation is just as important.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

As use of absentee ballots increases, it is important to make sure that the ballots received are being filled out by the individuals they were sent to. We recommend implementing signature verification to ensure the security of the election process, as the witness requirements that the state currently has are simultaneously less secure and raise barriers for voters.
Virginia implemented top-tier ballot tracking in the 2020 election and should make it a permanent feature for all future elections. Ballot tracking software such as Ballot Scout or Ballot TRACE is a very cost effective tool that increases voter confidence, adds a layer of data for the elections office, and provides another modality to contact voters if there is a signature mismatch or deficiency on their return envelope.
We highly recommend creating vote centers, or polling locations where any voter in the county can vote. Many counties in Virginia already offer these for early voting. This is a way to streamline the system so over time, as the share of the vote cast by mail increases, counties can have fewer overall polling locations, while individual voters will have more voting location options.
We highly recommend including provisions to allow for ballots to be received at polling or vote centers, and other locations deemed necessary by the clerk, as a low-cost method to increase options for voters.
Extending the period voters can cure any fixable issues with their ballots to 5 days after election day would reduce rejection rates.

Recent Legislation

As of June 17, 2021

In 2020, H.B. 1 and H.B. 207 together established no excuse absentee voting, permanent absentee voting, and online absentee ballot requests. H.B. 220 established prepaid postage for all absentee ballots and H.B. 238 established election day postmark acceptance if the ballot is received up to three days after the election. Virginia also passed legislation to establish same-day registration; however, it will not go into effect until 2022. In 2021, the Virginia General Assembly continued its progress by passing:

The “big bill”; it created a truly permanent absentee list and codified a wide variety of reforms, including ballot drop boxes, prepaid postage, and a cure process with voter notification.

This bill facilitated curbside voting for voters with physical disabilities or injuries in all elections. It also authorized curbside voting for all voters during states of emergencies related to communicable diseases or public health threats.

This bill permitted in-person absentee voting on Sundays.

This bill eliminated the witness signature requirement for absentee ballots voted in disease-related states of emergency; this reform was a temporary 2020 reform made permanent.

This bill established ballot dropoff locations and provided for a cure process for ballots with inadequate voter affirmations; the cure process was a temporary 2020 reform made permanent. The bill also required general registrars (or clerks) to conduct certain steps involved in preprocessing.