RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia voters are preparing to go to the polls in a few weeks for the primary election. Some changes will happen this summer at the Department of Elections to make sure everything goes smoothly when you register to vote in the coming months.
2019 is a big election year for Virginia. In November, voters will decide who sits in all 100 House of Delegate seats and all 40 Senate seats. Over the past few years, Republicans have held a slight majority in both chambers, 21 to 19 in the Senate and 51 to 49 in the House.
Roughly 370,000 voters were shuffled into new districts after maps were redrawn, following a court case that found 11 House of Delegates districts were racially gerrymandered. That means the districts were drawn in a way that sorted voters by race, which is unconstitutional.
To make sure your information is correct before voting, the General Assembly approved six new positions at the Department of Elections.
“I think elections are always a high priority but this is a real signal that it’s really time to invest in our elections,” Elections Commissioner Chris Piper said.
Two jobs will train local registrars, two will maintain voter registration lists, and the last two will focus on making sure voters are assigned to the correct districts and polling places when they register.
“It’s absolutely critical that when you register to vote that we put you in the right precinct, the right district so that you can get the right ballot and vote for your representative,” Commissioner Piper said.
These new positions were created after an audit of the department released in September found the list of roughly 5.5 million voters is “mostly accurate,” however, there were recommendations on how to maintain and improve the accuracy.
For example, the report found overall the department “has not provided adequate guidance” to local registrars on how to “decide whether to add or remove a voter for the list.” Also, the audit shows the department didn’t historically have a staffer assigned to maintaining the registration list.
Commissioner Piper says making sure there’s consistency across the Commonwealth with how elections are held will help ensure the integrity of our elections.
“We want 133 of those registrars representing those localities performing functions all the same way,” he said.
The positions hope to be filled as soon as possible after the budget takes effect July 1, the commissioner says.
The primary is being held on June 11. The deadline to register to vote is next Monday, May 20. You’ll want to take a look at the elections department website to see if your address is updated. This will determine which district you vote in and where you can actually go to the polls. The website also has the polling location you’re assigned to. You can also update your address by mail or at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
“You just need your basic information, name, address, date of birth and the last four digits of your social security number,” Piper explained.
This an open primary so anyone can vote, but not every district is having a primary because candidates in the same party might not have competition. Piper says you’ll want to check with your local registrar’s office to see who’s actually on the ballot.