Know Your Rights: Everyone in Line Must Vote

By Amie Knowles

October 26, 2020

If you’re in line when the polls close, it’s not too late to vote.

WAYNESBORO – Waynesboro general registrar Lisa Jeffers will be up bright and early on Nov. 3. She and her team will open polling precincts 44 minutes before sunrise, welcoming those who vote to America’s 59th presidential Election Day.

However, Jeffers likely won’t be the only person at the polls. 

“Usually the lines are first thing in the morning, from 6 o’clock on,” Jeffers said.

Far from a normal election year, the registrar doesn’t foresee nearly as many people at the polls on Nov. 3. That’s because many Waynesboro residents are taking advantage of early and absentee voting.

“I expect there will be some lines, maybe, at 6, but we have seen a 40% turnout so far,” Jeffers said. “So I don’t see lines as being that big of an issue on Election Day.”

Christine Lewis, Virginia Beach deputy registrar, will also be up early on Nov. 3. Just like Jeffers over 200 miles away, Lewis also expects to open doors to an eager line.

“Usually when they first open at 6 o’clock in the morning, they already have a line formed,” Lewis said.

RELATED: Virginia Changed Voter ID Requirements. Here’s What You Need to Know

Closing Time

Even though all registered Virginia voters had 45 days prior to the election to cast their ballot, some couldn’t make it. Others preferred voting on Election Day. No matter the reason, those voting next Tuesday have until 7 p.m. to arrive at the polls.

If a voter arrives at 7 p.m. when the polls close, they may wait in line – if there is one – but they won’t be turned away. Simply put, if you’re in line, the poll workers won’t leave until you cast your ballot.

“You’re allowed to vote,” Jeffers said.

The same rules apply in Virginia Beach, as well as across the state.

“You’ll be able to vote,” Lewis said.

Everyone Has a Chance

Polling precincts remain active until the last person in line at 7 p.m. casts their vote.

But this isn’t like you get a ballot on the honor system.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no,” Jeffers said. “An election official comes out and gets everybody in the building and the doors are locked.”

Historically, most Waynesboro voters arrive back home by early evening.

“At 7 o’clock they close, but as far as processing everyone, I think about a quarter of 8 is the latest,” Jeffers said.

In Virginia Beach, it’s oftentimes a different story. Many people typically arrive near the end of the day. So many, in fact, that moving everyone inside isn’t possible.

“We usually have what’s called a ‘last voter in line.’ It’s typically one of the election officials,” Lewis said. “They’ll go in the back of the line. They’ll announce that the polls are now closed and they’ll stand in the back of the line.”

Lewis noted that it’s not uncommon to have the last voter place their ballot at 11:30 p.m. or 12 midnight in Virginia Beach.

Voting lines in Virginia Beach will likely be more sparse this year. That’s because many residents submitted their ballot early. Lewis expected even more early voters over the next few days.

“We’ve had 35% vote by mail or in-person already. We typically, in presidential, have 80% voting,” Lewis said. “We’re seeing a big push this last week. We’re anticipating about 50% voting early, so you’re going to see, probably what a governor’s turnout would be. Probably 30% on Election Day.”

COVID Precautions

Like many polling locations across the state, Waynesboro will implement COVID-19 safety measures for staff and voters.

“All election officials will be wearing masks. We will be asking voters to do the same,” Jeffers said. “We have Plexiglas partitions, we have gloves, we have sanitizing going on between voter usage. Everyone gets a pen to fill out their ballot and we don’t want it back, you can take it with you. Those are just some of the things.”

Virginia Beach will also have pandemic precautions in place.

“Less booths, less people are allowed inside voting,” Lewis said. “They’re going to have tape so they know where to stand. All of our election officials have [personal protective equipment] supplies, which include face shields, masks, gloves, all that kind of stuff.”

No matter which way or which day people do it, it’s still important to vote.

“You’re determining who leads our country for the next four years,” Lewis said.

By performing an American right, voters make their voices known.

“Every election is important, not just presidential,” Jeffers said. “But this is your voice and your chance to be heard.”

Amie Knowles reports for Dogwood. She can be reached at [email protected]

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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