Voting early? How your absentee ballot is processed and counted

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Thousands voting early, absentee; Extra staffers already processing ballots in Virginia

HENRICO COUNTY, Va (WRIC) – So you stood in line to vote or you mailed in your absentee ballot?  What happens next? When does your vote get counted?

The year 2020 has been unique in so many ways that voting has proved no different. For the first time, some localities are already processing and counting Virginians’ vote as the commonwealth is seeing a record number of early voters.

On Friday, the line to vote early in-person wrapped around the Chesterfield County Registrar’s Office to vote.

Voters wrapped around the building at Chesterfield registrars office on Friday, Oct. 9. (Photo: Kerri O’Brien)

“It’s never been like this before,” said Susan Beals, Chairwoman of the Chesterfield County Electoral Board. Beals told 8News she has been incredibly busy.

“We have voted over 18,000 people and we’re voting about 200 people an hour,” Beals added.

At the Western Government Center in Henrico County, Friday is was a similar scene.

A long line of early voters waited about 45 minutes to cast their ballot.

Ann Marie Middlesworth, Henrico’s Deputy Registrar, told 8News, “These numbers far exceed anything we’ve seen in 2008,’12 or ’16.”

She said that includes absentee ballots. The county issued over 30,000 absentee ballots this year.

“In past elections, we normally just count absentee ballots on election day,” explained Middlesworth.

Yet, with this year’s unprecedented volume, workers are now pre-processing ballots at an off-site location that is secure. So secure that 8News wasn’t even allowed inside.

“They are actually scanning ballots so that there isn’t a huge backlog on election day,” Middlesworth said.

In Chesterfield, over 40,000 residents requested an absentee ballot and those ballots are being counted inside the Registrar’s Office.

“We’ve already received back about 10,000,” explained Beals. “We started counting them on October 5. They open it up, they check it into a poll book, they make sure that person is eligible to vote and then, they put it into a scanner where it gets counted.”

If you vote in person, you put your ballot through the scanner and watch it go through. But don’t worry, there are eyes on those absentee counts as well.

“We have a team inside the registrar’s office made up of officers of election and we also invite observers from each political party,” Beals said.

While the counting has started, nothing is tabulated until Election Night.

In the meantime, Richmond’s General Registrar J. Kirk Showalter tells 8News they won’t start pre-processing absentee ballots until the Sunday before Election Day.

Showalter told us, “We are bringing in 10 teams of three election officers for three days to pre-process and for Election Day processing.”

Elections officials told 8News if your absentee ballot is missing a signature or date, they will contact you so you can fix it.

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