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Elections commissioner says early in-person voting could become standard every year

Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 5:57 AM EDT
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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - The popularity of early voting across the country is evident in the numbers.

“America has already surpassed the number of early votes that we had in 2016," Christopher Piper, commissioner of the Department of Elections, said.

Virginia is no exception.

“Before election day in 2016 was 566,000 people. So far, we’re at 2 million," he said

Of the 2 million ballots cast, about 1.3 million were early in-person voters.

“So far, so good. Knock on wood," Piper laughed. "Things have gone pretty well and we anticipate a smooth election day.”

He added early in-person voting could be standard practice for future elections.

“I do believe that early voting is a method that voters really, really love and will continue to utilize going forward," Piper explained. “I think we all need to get used to the idea that it’s not Election Day or Election Night, it’s Election Season.”

This year especially, Piper warns voters not to expect results from every election by the time they go to bed Nov. 3.

“The results can’t be fully known until all the ballots have been counted," he said. "And that could be as long as Tuesday, Nov. 10.”

Piper said registrars are committed to accuracy. With the influx of absentee ballots that could be coming in as late as Nov. 6, posting the correct results will take time.

“At the end of the day, it’s the voters' belief that the election results are what we say they are that keeps our form of government propped up. And I just want to reassure everybody that it’s folks you see on the streets every day helping to maintain the integrity of the election.”

The elections commissioner said Virginia is already at 50% of the total turnout from the last presidential election. He expects 60-70% of the votes will already be cast by November 3.

In Montgomery County, they’ve had a steady stream of walk-ins since early voting began back in September.

“We have eliminated the lines," chief elections officer, Curtis Ray Cox, Sr. said. "I don’t think anyone has had to wait longer than they would for a traffic light downtown.”

Of the county’s nearly 63,000 residents, more than 14,000 ballots have been cast in person and by mail.

“The purpose of this was to minimize contact for people who were concerned about exposure to the virus," Cox said.

Which is why they’ve also implemented curbside voting for those who can’t or don’t want to leave their cars.

“Come to the curb, let us know you’re out there and we’ll have someone bring a ballot to you," he said.

The phone number on the handicap sign in front of the Government Center calls the voter registrar.

From there, there are three easy steps to voting curbside.

Montgomery County offers curbside voting to people who can't or don't want to leave their cars...
Montgomery County offers curbside voting to people who can't or don't want to leave their cars to vote.(WDBJ7)

“One, to go out to get the identification. Second, to take them the ballot after we’ve confirmed that they’re on the registrar’s voter list. And three, to make sure that ballot was read and has been voted," Cox explained.

Piper said this year has been all about re-evaluating how things are done to make it as safe and convenient for voters as possible.

“Real credit to the elections officials and general registrars across the Commonwealth for getting everything set up and making such an efficient process," he said.

Absentee ballots must be turned in to the registrar office by noon Nov. 6 to be counted.

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