Interested DC-area voters advised to request mail-in ballots sooner rather than later

This Purcellville, Virginia, polling location in June took measures to prevent COVID-19 exposure with measures including social distancing, providing masks and working behind Plexiglas. (Courtesy Loudoun County Office of Elections)

To vote in the November presidential election, everyone in the D.C. area has the option of mailing in a ballot. But, voters may need to request one first.

“D.C. is just mailing ballots; D.C. is mailing everyone a ballot. But, in Maryland and Virginia, you have to request it,” said Richard Keech, co-chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Elections Officials Committee. “In Maryland and Virginia, you can apply today.”

“If you’re going to vote by mail, request your ballot soon,” Keech said. “We’re recommending people request it as early as possible so that we can get it to them and so they can fill it out and get it back to us.”

Keech also is Loudoun County’s deputy registrar. Based on what he’s seeing, he expects a heavy virtual turnout.

“We expect to mail somewhere near 40,000 ballots in Loudoun County compared to 4,000 in 2016,” he said. “I fully expect 100,000 people may vote by mail, which is a third of our voters.”

Registrar’s offices regionwide will start mailing out ballots in mid-September. However, in some areas, ballots don’t exclusively have to be submitted through the mail.

Keech said ballots can be dropped off at the office of elections in some local jurisdictions.

“Some places also allow for dropboxes,” he said.

In-person voting will be available at many usual locations and at some consolidated voting centers; check with specific precincts to confirm the location.

Volunteers are also needed this November to help the in-person sites run smoothly.

“Even though we expect more people to vote early and by mail, we still need people to run the vote centers or polling places and help to make sure their neighbors and friends can vote,” Keech said. “We need people. It takes a lot of people to make democracy happen.”

You can sign up to be an election official at the boards of elections websites for Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.

“This is going to be an election unlike any we’ve ever seen and probably will ever see again — but I believe we’re up to it,” Keech said. “I know the election administrators throughout the Washington region, and I can tell you that every one of them is dedicated to ensuring that voters can vote safely and efficiently.”

Maryland and Virginia voters can request mail-in ballots online.

You can confirm your voter registration in D.C. online, too.

Election Day is Nov. 3.

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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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