Virginia’s new election law took effect Saturday

Published 8:30 am Friday, October 7, 2022

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Last Saturday marked more than the beginning of a new month. Virginia’s new election law took effect, one that will provide new ways to register to vote. If you look on the state election website or go to the registrar’s page for Lunenburg County, the deadline to register to vote is Oct. 17. As of Saturday, there’s a second option, but one that makes things slightly more complicated.

Same day voter registration is now allowed across the Commonwealth. That means, if you miss the traditional deadline, which this year is Monday, Oct. 17, you can still go to the registrar’s office or even register at your polling place on Election Day.

“Yes, beginning with the 2022 General Election, the General Assembly approved legislation that provides the ability to register at any time, up to and including Election Day,” said Elections Commissioner Susan Beals in a statement. Her staff also directed The Dispatch to the same language on the Elections website.

That change went into effect due to a law that was passed in the 2020 session of the General Assembly. To give cities and counties time to adjust, the Assembly pushed back the plan for a two-year period, writing in the final version that it would take effect Oct. 1, 2022. And the wording on the law, HB 201, is pretty clear.

“Any person who is qualified to register to vote shall be entitled to register in person up to and including the day of the election at the office of the general registrar in the locality in which such person resides or at the polling place for the precinct in which such person resides,” the law states.

Ballots under Virginia’s new election law

But as mentioned above, there is one catch. If you use the same-day registration, the vote you cast is considered a provisional ballot. That means it doesn’t go in the scanner like the rest. Instead, it’ll be reviewed during the next day by the local Electoral Board. Why? That gives election officials time to make sure it’s a valid ballot. They will check your paperwork, confirm you are who you saw and that you voted at the right polling place. Once all that’s done, then the vote will be counted.

You may have heard the term provisional ballot used before. These are ballots used by people who don’t appear on the list of registered voters at their polling place. And if you’re just registering to vote that day, it stands to reason your name wouldn’t be on the list for that polling place just yet.

The biggest question for some people is how you’ll know that your provisional vote was counted. There’s a process for that as well. “After you vote, you will be given a notice with the date, time and place where the local electoral board will make a decision regarding your provisional ballot,” Beals said in a statement.

To be clear, you are entitled to attend this meeting, but you don’t have to, in order for the ballot to count. “If your registration application is approved and there are no other issues, your ballot will be counted,” it says on Virginia’s Elections website. “If your ballot is not counted, you will receive written notice from your general registrar.”

Two more weeks left

While that option is available for those who file late, you can still register up to Oct. 17 and get a regular ballot, rather than a provisional one. To do that, you need to go in person to your local registrar’s office. In Lunenburg County, that’s located at 160 Courthouse Square, Lunenburg. That’s also where you can vote early. Starting on Sept. 23, citizens will be able to vote at the location from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. This continues up until Nov. 4, the Friday before the general election.