Saturday, December 2, 2023

Forget to Register to Vote? Under a New Law, You Can Still Cast a Ballot.

Voters cast ballots in Richmond at the city registrar’s office. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

RICHMOND — Procrastinators who forgot to register to vote by the Oct. 17 deadline but still want to cast their ballot in this November’s congressional elections can do so thanks to new legislation.

From now until Nov. 8, these Virginians can take advantage of same-day voter registration and vote with a provisional ballot at their polling location or general registrar, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.

Democrats in the General Assembly passed a law allowing same-day voter registration in 2020 as part of a package of voting reforms aimed at making voting easier. Previously, registration closed 21 days before an election, with no ability for Virginians to register after the deadline.

Provisional ballots are used by voters who do not appear on the list of registered voters at their polling place, and they are subject to approval prior to being counted. The local general registrar’s office will review the ballot and determine if the individual is qualified and eligible to vote. The ballot will then be sent to the local electoral board, which will decide whether or not to count it.

Between now and Nov. 7, unregistered voters can same-day register at the office of their local general registrar or satellite location, but they must go to their polling place on Election Day.

The process may be more convenient for voters, but it takes time for election officials to research whether the person is eligible to vote or not, Virginia’s new commissioner of elections, Susan Beals, told The Virginia Mercury last month. Provisional ballots are not processed by a vote counting machine and instead are individually reviewed.

Voters casting such a ballot will be given a notice with the date, time and place of the meeting where the local electoral board will make the decision of whether to count it or not, but they are not required to attend the meeting. If the ballot is not counted, the voter will receive a written notice from their local general registrar.

To find out more about same-day voter registration and provisional ballots, individuals can visit the Virginia Department of Elections website or contact the office of their local general registrar.

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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