COVID-19 pandemic forces changes to Va. Primary Day

COVID-19 pandemic forces changes to Va. Primary Day

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Primary Day in Virginia looked a bit different than in previous elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Voters had the chance of casting ballots in either the Democratic Primary or the Republican Primary, but not both.

This is the first major election held during the pandemic and precaution were put in place.

“There were several options this time, we could have voted by mail or in person,” said one voter. “I kind of made a last-minute decision to come on in and see what this experience would be like.”

The coronavirus pandemic continues to mean new realities at the voting booth.

In Henrico, for example, anyone who chose to vote in person was required to take their pens and folders with them after casting their ballots.

But beyond that, poll workers were also prepared to enforce safety measures, putting cones put in place for social distancing along with other pieces of equipment.

“I was a little surprised by all the faceshields,” one woman said. “I feel like they were prepared for a crowd.”

“The only difference was a shorter line than usual and wearing a mask,” said a Richmond City voter.

The light turnout may be due to more people voting absentee.

According to the Virginia Department of Elections, more than 118,000 absentee ballots were sent out ahead of the primary.

Here’s how many were sent out in our local jurisdictions:

  • Chesterfield: 4,570
  • Hanover: 2,822
  • Henrico: Roughly 4,000
  • Richmond: 9,948

However, some people also opted to vote in person after originally requesting an absentee ballot.

"I was very cautious, just to be prepared and just in case things got out of hand and if I did not feel safe coming in," said one woman.

Meanwhile, some voters decided to drop off their absentee ballots at the polling sites. Those must be received by 7 p.m.

As of Monday at 8:19 a.m., the Department of Elections reported more than 65,000 absentee ballots had been returned.

As for issues at the polls, there was minor confusion about the different primaries to vote in.

The Richmond City Registrar’s office said one polling locations forgot to bring out the Republican ballots Tuesday morning, but the issues was eventually resolved.

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