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Officials advise absentee voting for May Virginia local elections

Mike Still • Apr 29, 2020 at 2:00 PM

WISE — With Virginia’s May local elections now pushed back two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ralph Northam and local registrars have a common message: Vote early and vote safely.

Local elections originally set for May 5 will now be held May 19, and deadlines for requesting and submitting absentee ballots are also moved accordingly.

Under Northam’s emergency orders in March for COVID-19 safety, qualified Virginia voters can request an absentee ballot for elections under reason code 2A for disabilities under state election law. During a press conference Friday, Northam said he did not want to see a repeat of the Wisconsin state supreme court election process, where limits on absentee balloting forced many residents to go to the polls during the pandemic.

Wise County General Registrar Allison Robbins on Monday reinforced those concerns, saying that federal and Virginia social distancing and assembly limits would still apply at polling stations. She said voters should be prepared for extended waits if they choose to vote in person May 19.

“Election Day voters should expect to be asked to wait outside or to wait in their car until a safe location is available inside the polling place,” said Robbins. “Additionally, voters will be required to maintain social distancing while inside the polling place by staying at least 6 feet way from all other voters and officers of election.”

Sanitation and cleaning procedures will also be used at polling places to protect voters and poll workers, Robbins said.

Voters wanting to apply for an absentee ballot can call or email their local registrar or, using Department of Motor Vehicles credentials such as a driver’s license or DMV special identification card, go online at https://vote.elections.virginia.gov.

The deadline to submit absentee ballot applications via mail or email is 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12. The ballots themselves must be received by the registrar by Tuesday, May 19 before polls close.

Persons wanting to vote absentee in person must do so by 5 p.m. Saturday, May 16. While registrar’s offices in Wise, Lee and Scott counties and Norton are closed to the public, they are staffed during regular business hours. Voters can make appointments to vote early in person or can request ballots via curbside service.

Scott County voters in Gate City, Dungannon and Clinchport will be voting for town officers. In Wise County, town elections are open for Wise, Pound, Coeburn, St. Paul and Appalachia. In Lee County, St. Charles voters will have an empty ballot since no one has declared candidacy for town offices.

For more information on absentee ballots and voting, call:

Scott County — (276) 386-3843

Lee County — (276) 346-7780

Wise County — (276) 328-8331

Norton — (276) 679-1162

Information on candidates in local elections can be found at the Virginia State Board of Elections website: www.elections.virginia.gov.

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