Essential workers from around Virginia held a protest Oct. 1 at the White House, calling for better protection against COVID-19 and a plan to fight the virus. Photo by Arianna Coghill. Essential Workers Call for Change
Essential workers from around Virginia held a protest Oct. 1 at the White House, calling for better protection against COVID-19 and a plan to fight the virus. Photo by Arianna Coghill.

Early voting numbers now triple the results from four years ago, with two weeks left.

RICHMOND-The numbers keep growing across Virginia. As of Thursday morning, 1.74 million people had cast a ballot either absentee or in-person. That more than triples the 538,410 who voted early in 2016 and there’s still time to go. 

As we’ve reported before, those voters cover a wide range of experience. Some waited more than two hours just to get a ballot. We’ve reported about lines stretching down the block in places like Richmond and Roanoke. In Fairfax, Great Falls resident Lynne McDonald, 57, and her daughter Sarah, 20, were some of the first to cast a ballot back in September. They both voted for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Lynne described herself as a “moderate Democrat” and said her husband is Republican. But he also voted for Biden this election. 

Lynne McDonald said Trump tries to divide Republicans and Democrats.

“He is constantly saying Democrats hate this country, and that is so not true,” she said. “Republicans who support him, they’re not anti-American either. We have a right to our opinions, but for the leader of our country to sit there and say more than half of the country hates the country because they don’t like him, there’s a problem.” 

Groups push ‘Get out the Vote’ message

The Virginia Democrats were one of several organizations that issued social media ads this week to encourage voting. The goal is to motivate people who haven’t voted early yet and build on the interest already being shown. This type of strategy was actually referenced in the federal voting registration case heard on Wednesday. All groups involved in the case said social media posts and ads are one of the top current drivers for registrations and voting. 

“[More than] one million Virginians have already voted, showing record levels of energy and enthusiasm to elect the Biden-Harris ticket and Democrats up and down the ballot,” said Emily Doran, Virginia Coordinate Campaign Digital Organizing Director. “This milestone is proof of how convenient it is to vote in the Commonwealth this election cycle, with multiple in-person locations and mail-in options. We will continue to encourage all voters to cast their ballots so that we can reach millions more voters and make sure Virginians across the Commonwealth are able to make their voices heard in November.”

This is an entirely new concept for most Virginians. At the beginning of the current special session, Gov. Northam and the General Assembly removed some of the restrictions around early voting. You no longer need a witness to sign or to carry a photo ID with you if you go in person. People also don’t need to justify their request when voting absentee. You can just ask. Those options will continue to be available until Oct. 31. 

What’s your plan?

The biggest part of every group’s message is simple: have a plan. We can’t just decide to stop off after work and cast a ballot. That is, unless you’re possibly willing to wait several hours. Instead, groups are asking people to go to IWillVote.com/VA come up with a definite date and time to do it.

“We are thrilled to see that over one million Virginians have exercised their right to vote early and it’s clear voters know how important this election will be in determining the future of our nation,” said Chris Bolling, Biden for President Virginia state director. “Our campaign is committed to making sure that everyone across the Commonwealth knows how easy and convenient it is to vote in Virginia this year thanks to 45 days of no-excuse early voting, ballot drop boxes, and early voting satellite locations. There’s far too much on the line this year, which is why we won’t let up in our efforts to turn out as many Virginians as possible to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to lead us out of this pandemic, protect Virginians’ access to health care, and help us build back better.”

There’s still plenty of time to cast a ballot if you haven’t already. In Virginia, early voting goes on through October 31. For more information on your rights or any questions, visit our 2020 Voters Guide.