As Henrico’s election officials gear up for potential heavy turnout in the upcoming general election, they are asking county voters to do a couple of things before heading to the polls on Nov. 8.
“Please remember to bring a photo ID,” said Henrico General Registrar Mark Coakley, referring to Virginia’s two-year-old law requiring voters to show official photo identification before casting a ballot.
“We also are asking voters to be prepared before they head into the voting booth on Election Day,” he said. “This will be a lengthy ballot, but voters will be able to move through it quickly if they are already familiar with the questions they will be voting on.”
Henrico voters will decide whether to authorize the county to issue general obligation bonds to fund $419.8 million in capital projects, such as the construction and renovation of schools, parks and fire stations. The bond referendum will be presented to voters in five questions, one for each category of projects. A written explanation of each question will be available to voters at their polling places.
The ballot also will include a pair of proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution. In addition, voters will elect a representative to the U.S. House of Representatives as well as a new president and vice president.
Coakley anticipates turnout in Henrico will rival the general elections of 2008 and 2012, when nearly 80 percent of the county’s registered voters cast ballots. Lines are likely at most precincts, he said, but wait times can be reduced if voters are able to do a little homework ahead of time.
The number of registrations of new voters is “through the roof” so far this year, Coakley said, surpassing the brisk pace of registrations in the run-up to each of the past two presidential elections. As of July 11, some 214,450 Henrico residents had registered to vote. The county’s voter rolls should continue to swell, as residents have until Oct. 17 to register.
Newly registered voters may encounter for the first time the digital optical scanners and paper ballots the county implemented in June 2015, replacing touchscreen voting machines that had been in use for a decade. Voters mark their choices on the ballot with a pencil or pen, then insert the ballot in the scanner, which reads the marks and tallies the votes.
The new system has performed well in several elections over the past year, Coakley said.
“Poll workers are familiar with the equipment and like its ease of use,” he said. “Voters like the security of having a paper backup for their votes.”
To accommodate the increase in voters this year, Henrico is purchasing 10 additional scanners and will deploy a total of 115 of the machines across the county. Precincts with more than 4,000 registered voters are required to have two scanners, said Anne Marie Middlesworth, deputy general registrar.
Training is underway for approximately 1,600 poll workers who will assist voters at county polling sites, Middlesworth said. The county is in the process of splitting the large Highland Gardens precinct in the Fairfield District and creating a new voting site at Essex Village.
Henrico’s Board of Supervisors voted to approve creation of the Essex Village precinct at its July 12 meeting. The board scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday, Aug. 9 to receive input from affected voters. With the addition of Essex Village, Henrico will have 93 precincts, Middlesworth said.
Absentee voting begins Sept. 23
Residents won’t necessarily have to wait until November to cast a ballot. Voters who know they will be out of town or otherwise unable to go to the polls on Election Day can begin applying now for absentee ballots.
Absentee voting begins Friday, Sept. 23, Middlesworth said. Voters can cast an absentee ballot in person through Friday, Nov. 4 during regular business hours at the county’s two Voter Registration and Elections offices. In addition, the offices will open for extended hours the two Saturdays prior to Election Day, on Oct. 29 and Nov. 5.
To cast an absentee ballot prior to Election Day, voters must cite a reason explaining why they cannot vote at their designated polling site on Nov. 8.
“This is not the same as early voting, which Virginia does not have,” Coakley said. “Voters have to give a reason why they can’t vote on Election Day to receive an absentee ballot.”
Possible reasons range from business travel to being away at college, among others.
“There are 17 reasons a voter can provide for voting absentee,” he said. “We encourage our voters to check the list if they know they will be away on Nov. 8.”
View Sample Ballots here.
For more information, contact Henrico’s Voter Registration and Elections Office at (804) 501-4347 or go to henrico.us/registrar.