How at-will voting before elections might affect overall voter turnout

A Fairfax County, Virginia, election official weighed in on what being able to vote early during elections might mean for the future.

Roughly half the estimated ballots cast in Fairfax County on Tuesday did not happen inside polling booths, and Virginia Democrats were able to vote early in the primary election by mail or in person without needing an excuse.

“Six years or so, more than half of the population will be voting other than on Election Day,” Scott Konopasek, director of Elections and General Registrar of Fairfax County, said.

Konopasek’s prediction is based on what he’s seen happen elsewhere.

“Washington State and Utah are both completely vote by mail; California changed the laws in 2002 and are now, virtually, vote by mail,” he said.

Virginia first allowed early voting free of excuses in 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns.

As for whether not having to go to the polls will lead to more people casting ballots overall, Konopasek said not so much.

“It does boost turning in November of a presidential year, but election in, election out. It’s the same group of people who are interested and pay attention and get out and vote,” Konopasek said.

More Virginia primary election news

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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