Surge of absentee voters indicates possible long lines on Election Day

Updated: Oct. 28, 2019 at 7:02 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - With just eight days until the Nov. 5 election, voter turnout is already huge for absentee ballots, especially among students.

Virginia is on track to surpassing 2015′s absentee total, an indicator that there could be long lines next Tuesday. 2015′s election was the last time all 140 seats in Virginia’s General Assembly were up for grabs. That year, 78,000 absentee ballots were cast.

So far for 2019’s election, 73,000 absentee ballots have already been counted.

Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Christopher Piper says more than triple the number of students have requested absentee ballots.

“In 2015, there were about 5,000 absentee ballots applications returned for reason 1a, that’s a student. We’ve already received 17 or 18,000 applications for that reason,” he said.

Voters have until Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 5 p.m. to apply for an absentee ballot, so that it’s sent in the mail. You can apply in person or online on the Department of Elections website, with more than 20 reasons to make your request.

You can still vote absentee in person through this Saturday, or return your absentee ballot in person, by Tuesday. Absentee ballots are counted on election day, unlike provisional ballots, which are counted later on.

With the focus on election security more heightened than possibly ever before, Virginia spent over $9 million of federally-granted money to secure its machines against hackers.

Virginia now only uses paper ballots and scantrons, that are not connected to the internet in any way.

“In an election polling place, there are no systems that are connected to the internet at any time,” said Piper.

Piper says the Department of Elections uses extensive firewalls and state-shared software to make sure our voter registry lists can’t be breached, and are up to date.

"We’re updated on a regular basis about deaths and those who move out of state,” said Piper.

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