Can 17-Year-Olds Vote in Virginia Primaries? It Depends on Their Birthday.

By Amie Knowles

May 18, 2021

Some can vote in Virginia, if their birthday falls on or before a certain date.

ROANOKE – In most places, teenagers can’t vote until they turn 18. However in Virginia, there’s a bit of a loophole that allows someone to vote earlier. That doesn’t mean every 17-year-old in the state can cast a ballot, however. It’s a question of when your birthday falls. 

Under Virginia law, if you turn 18 on or before Election Day, you can vote in both the primaries and the general election. The same general rule applies every year, but the dates change. That’s because Election Day doesn’t occur on a set day every year, like Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14.

Instead, Election Day occurs on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. 

According to the Virginia Department of Elections, those turning 18 by the General Election may vote in any election held that year. 

I’m 17; Can I Vote Early?

If you’re 17 years old and you turn 18 on or before Election Day, you have the same voting rights as everyone else. 

That means you can vote early, using the no-excuse absentee ballot adjustments the state adopted last year during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Any registered voter has that option [to vote early],” said Andrew Cochran, director of elections and general registrar for the City of Roanoke. 

Marie Muir, Norton’s general registrar, expressed the same in her district. 

“As long as they are 18 [by Nov. 2], they would be able to cast an early ballot,” Muir said. 

Now we mention that because there are some restrictions for first-time voters. In some Virginia state and local elections, first timers cannot vote absentee by mail. Let’s be clear. This goes for any first-time voter, not just teenagers. 

If a first time voter wants to vote by mail here in the Commonwealth, they need to meet at least one of eight conditions. First, a student attending a college or university outside of their city or county of residence in Virginia may mail-in their ballot. Second, the person can do so if he or she has a disability or illness that prevents them from voting in person. Third, the individual can vote by mail if they are pregnant. Fourth, if you’re in jail awaiting trial on a misdemeanor charge, you can mail in your vote.  

A first-timer can also vote by mail if they’re active-duty in the armed forces. The same goes if you’re the spouse or child of an active-duty service member. Sixth, first timers can vote by mail if they temporarily live outside of the country. Seventh, if the first time voter is 65 or older, they can mail in their vote. 

Finally, if someone just moved to Virginia less than 30 days before a presidential election, they can vote by mail as a first-time voter in the Commonwealth. This one doesn’t apply to us for the 2021 election. 

Don’t Forget Your ID 

Virginia voters don’t need proof of their voter registration when they arrive at the polls. All a voter needs is one acceptable form of identification

“They have expanded,” Cochran said. “It used to be a photo ID, and that has expanded to include things like a utility bill with your current name and address on there, where you’re registered, bank statements, that kind of thing.”

There are 16 valid forms of identification in Virginia.

Voters can bring their Virginia-issued driver’s license. The license may be current or expired. Out-of-state licenses are unacceptable. 

Voter confirmation documents, as well as a voter ID card issued by the Department of Elections, serve as identification, as does a valid DMV-issued ID card, a US Military ID or a valid US passport or passport card.

Three forms of identification have similarities. First, a valid student ID issued by a public or private higher education school, located in Virginia. The second is a valid student ID, containing a photograph, issued by a public or private school of higher education located in the US Third, a valid student ID issued by a public or private high school in Virginia.

A valid tribal enrollment or other tribal ID, a nursing home resident ID or any other current government document containing the name and address of the voter confirm voter identification. 

Bringing a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck containing the name and address of the voter also serves as proper identification.

A valid employee ID card—containing a photograph and issued by the voter’s employer in the ordinary course of business—also works. A government-issued ID card from a federal, Virginia or local political subdivision is also an acceptable identifier. 

Voters may also sign an ID Confirmation Statement.

What if I Didn’t Register? 

Now if you didn’t register before today, it’s too late to vote in the June primaries. That deadline came and went May 17. However, if that’s the case, now is still a good time to register, so you’ll be able to vote in November. 

Cochran explained that first-time voters do not need to register in-person. However, they are welcome to go to their local registrar’s office if they prefer.

“They can use a paper application or they can register online,” Cochran said. “Most 17-year-olds would be very savvy online.”

In addition to the age requirement, there are five additional requirements for Virginians registering to vote.

A Virginia voter must be a resident of Virginia. Someone who came to Virginia for temporary purposes and will return to another state is not a resident, for voting purposes.

The individual must also be a US citizen. They cannot register in another state or plan to vote in another state. 

Voters may not be mentally incompetent, decided by a court of law.

If convicted of a felony, a voter must have their voting rights restored.

The Future

Young people are a vital part of America’s electoral voice. 

“We are finding that [young voters] are very, very engaged,” Cochran said. 

A slew of young people took responsibility in their hands in the 2020 presidential election.  

In 2020, a total of 72.7% of 18-year-olds registered for the 2020 election. A total of 66.8% of those young adults voted on or before Election Day.

Muir also noted the importance of young voters hitting the polls.

“They’ll be voting for the future,” Muir said.

Amie Knowles reports for The Dogwood. You can reach her 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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