Same-day voter registration is coming to Virginia. Here’s how it’ll work.
The big change to Virginia’s voting laws in the last two years made casting a ballot easier for people who like to get things done early. A new law taking effect this fall will do the same for procrastinators.
Same-day voter registration is taking effect in the state in time for the congressional midterms in November, a significant shift from the way Virginia elections have worked in the past. Instead of the voter registration window closing about three weeks out from an election, the new law will allow voters to fill out a registration form and cast a ballot after that deadline, up to and including Election Day. Registration after the deadline will only be allowed in person, either at the local registrar’s office or at a polling place.
Ballots cast by late-registered voters won’t go directly into the scanners as a regular ballot would. Those voters will be allowed to cast provisional ballots, giving election officials time to verify paperwork and ensure the vote is valid before it is counted.
Though slightly more complicated for voters, setting the ballots aside for additional review lightens the burden on local election offices and could help alleviate concerns a bad actor could register and cast ballots in multiple cities or counties on Election Day by giving different addresses at each stop. Virginia polling places have limited Internet connectivity by design, which makes it difficult for poll workers to conduct real-time checks to see if a would-be voter is already registered somewhere else.
Treating the ballots as provisional, said Elections Commissioner Susan Beals, will give local registrars time to use the statewide voter system to perform those checks.
“They can run it against that and see has this person already tried to register someplace else,” Beals, an appointee of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, said in an interview.
As long as the information checks out, late-registering voters will not have to return to an election office later to provide additional documentation.
Democrats passed the same-day voter registration law in 2020 as part of a package of voting reforms designed to increase ballot access, measures Republicans argued would chip away at election security.
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