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With COVID-19 in mind, Henrico readies for primary

Absentee voting by mail is encouraged; additional measures planned for June 23 election

Preparations are underway in Henrico for the June 23 primary election, and like other institutions, the election is confronting new challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Absentee voting has begun, with in-person and vote-by-mail options available to the county’s registered voters. Election officials have made adjustments related to COVID-19 to accommodate voters’ preferred means for casting an early ballot.  

Henrico’s Board of Supervisors is considering an ordinance that temporarily will relocate several county polling places from retirement communities and assisting-living facilities.   

“We’re in a new environment when it comes to elections because of COVID-19,” said Henrico General Registrar Mark Coakley.  

The primary was postponed from June 9 by Gov. Ralph Northam. In calling for the delay, he cited concerns over asking Virginians to choose between their health and their right to vote. The election features a countywide contest for a U.S. Senate seat on the Republican ballot and a race in eastern Henrico for the District 4 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on the Democratic ballot.

Absentee options

Registered voters who want to cast their ballots ahead of Election Day can vote absentee in person at Voter Registration and Elections offices at the Henrico Government Center administration annex and Eastern Government Center on weekdays through Friday, June 19, and also on Saturday, June 20.

Voting will take place in the lobby of the administration annex and in the community room at the Eastern Government Center. Floors will be marked to aid social distancing; pens will not be reused once voters have filled out their ballots.

Election staff will wear masks and voters are encouraged to bring and wear them as well, although they are not required, Coakley said, noting that masks will not be provided at the sites.  

Residents also can vote absentee by mail, an option the Virginia Department of Elections supports, Coakley said.  

“Voters who feel uncomfortable about going to their polling places are encouraged to vote by mail with an absentee ballot,” he said.

Voters can apply for an absentee ballot online, print an application or call Voter Registration and Elections at (804) 501-4347. They will receive an absentee ballot after applying.

Coakley noted that voters in Virginia are required to provide a reason for casting an absentee ballot. Individuals concerned about going to their polling place due to COVID-19 can choose Reason Code 2A, “My disability or illness,” on the application form.  

On June 23, the floors at county polling places will be marked for social distancing and residents will keep their pens and ballot folders after voting.

Curbside voting from vehicles, an option at every election, will be available to voters as well. Poll workers will be positioned at each precinct to help residents vote without leaving their vehicles on Election Day.    

Precinct relocations for June 23

Voters in several Henrico precincts will cast their ballots at a different polling place as part of the county’s adjustments for COVID-19.

The temporary changes will affect precincts based primarily at retirement communities and long-term care facilities. Coakley noted that such facilities are not available to serve as polling places during the pandemic as a precaution for the health of their residents.

Precincts that will change for the primary are:

  • 205, Westminster Canterbury House, will move to Belmont Recreation Center
  • 218, Chestnut Grove Assisted Living, will move to Brookland Middle School
  • 221, Stratford Hall ManorCare, will move to Moody Middle School
  • 302, The Hermitage at Cedarfield, will move to Pocahontas Middle School
  • 509, Mountain of Blessings Church, will move to Montrose Elementary School

Voters in the affected precincts will be notified by Voter Registration and Elections.

Coakley emphasized that the change is temporary and said he expects the precincts will return to their regular locations once the public health crisis subsides, likely by the November general election.

Key dates for the primary election

  • May 8: In-person absentee voting begins; absentee ballots can be requested for mailing
  • May 26: Last day to register to vote
  • June 16: Last day to apply for an absentee ballot for mailing
  • June 20: Last day to vote absentee in person
  • June 23: Absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m.
  • June 23: Polling places open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Additional information is available from Voter Registration and Elections.

General Registrar Mark Coakley discusses preparations for the June 23 primary and the impact of COVID-19 on the election. He also explains how Henrico voters can cast an absentee ballot by mail.

 
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