Early voting about to start for Virginia primaries

The 2020 presidential election is over, and Virginia is just getting started once again with its own political schedule as the state elects a new governor this year.

Early in-person voting for the state’s upcoming primary gets underway on Friday. That is also when ballots will start being mailed out to voters who requested them.

“We don’t see huge turnouts for primaries in Virginia,” said Gary Scott, the general registrar in Fairfax County.

But Scott said voting will be easier this year for several reasons. First, there was the change in absentee voting that took effect last year, allowing people to vote early without having to provide an excuse.

Another, more recent change allowed for ballot drop boxes around the state.

“We will have drop boxes for voters,” said Scott. “That will be in effect for the primary election.”

Early voting is starting now because state law requires it to begin 45 days before the actual primary date, which is June 8.

For statewide offices such as governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, voters will only see Democratic candidates listed on the ballot because Republicans are choosing their statewide candidates through a convention.

There are five Democrats running for governor.

All 100 members of the House of Delegates are up for reelection this year, but only those facing an opponent will appear on the ballot for the June primary. Those who are running uncontested will not be listed.

“Under Virginia law, you must have two candidates to have a primary, since write-ins are not permitted,” said Scott.

During the Republican convention, only delegates who were selected to participate in the event will vote on May 8, and they will cast a ballot in-person at about 40 locations across the state. There are seven Republicans seeking the nomination for governor.

“I suspect we are going to see less early voting for this,” said Scott, comparing it to November’s presidential election, when the pandemic prompted many to vote early either in-person or through the mail.

In Virginia’s last gubernatorial primary in 2017, both Democrats and Republicans held traditional primaries, with Republicans opting for that method rather than a convention. Democratic turnout was under 14% and Republicans had under 6% turnout.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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