RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Election administrators are making it clear that Virginians could be waiting longer for results from the state’s pivotal Nov. 7 elections to come in.
General registrars around Virginia and in the Richmond area are pointing to the longer ballots for this year’s elections, which include state legislative and local races, and new increased processing requirements for any potential holdup.
“The main driving force that could cause a delay, pure and simple, is the length of the ballot,” Teresa F. Smithson, Hanover County’s voter registrar, told 8News.
Smithson noted that Hanover has 17 different state legislative and local races — as well as the voter referendum on whether the county should have an elected school board. While Hanover residents won’t vote in them all, Smithson’s staff will have to make sure all ballots are counted.
Voting machines have to count the votes and produce result tapes that will go into Virginia’s election night reporting system. How long this process takes, registrars told 8News, will vary from place to place.
In Richmond, there are Virginia General Assembly races on the ballot, but most Democratic candidates are running unopposed in the blue city. The focus this election season is the ballot question asking voters, for the second time, whether they want a casino in South Richmond.
“It looks like the city will have low turnout,” Richmond voter registrar Keith Balmer told 8News Friday, adding that — because of the projected turnout numbers — he’s not expecting much of a delay.
Balmer said he expects Election Day precincts in by around 8:30 p.m. and absentee results between 9:30 and 10 p.m., telling 8News that “fingers crossed” he’s predicting to be done reporting results by 10 p.m.
Another factor for possible delays, registrars say, could be processing requirements in which all results must be reported by precinct instead of having mail-in and early ballots reported as a single “absentee precinct.” Local voter registrars have started pre-processing absentee ballots, but can’t tabulate any until after polls close at 7 p.m.
Walt Latham, York County’s voter registrar, posted a notice he sent to candidates and parties about potential delayed election results on X on Oct. 26. He cited longer ballots and new processing requirements but added that “reporting of absentee results by precinct will take place over the following week” not on election night.
Smithson told 8News that her office will report all precincts on Election Day, saying she’s shooting for 9 p.m. to get the results in the system. But she noted that other localities, like Chesterfield County, have more races to handle and could take longer.
The office of Chesterfield’s voter registrar, Missy Vera, sent out a release “asking the public to be patient,” notifying voters that the processing requirements and the county’s 25 races could lead to a longer wait on final results.
The county, Vera’s office said, has pre-processed some of the 15,000 mail-in absentee ballots and has bought more tabulation machines to help count votes.
“We are going to make sure every vote cast early in-person, or by mail, is counted into the totals of the correct precinct that corresponds with where the voter resides,” Vera said in a statement. “While this process may take longer than in years past, I want to reassure our voters, and the many candidates running in Chesterfield, that we have assembled a team that takes this very seriously, and is dedicated to making sure our results, once posted, are accurate and correct.”
Another factor for a delay in results could be counting absentee ballots coming through the mail. These ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by the local general registrar’s office by noon on Nov. 13.
8News relies on The Associated Press for race calls. All election results are unofficial until they are certified by the Virginia State Board of Elections or the local electoral board.
Early voting at local voter registration offices, which started Sept. 22, ends at 5 p.m. on Nov. 4. Election Day is Nov. 7, and polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.