First mail-in votes cast in Virginia Beach, crowds line up to vote early

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — There are 32 days until Election Day, but down at Building 14 — Voter Registration and Elections at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center — had crowds comparable to Election Day just this Friday.

It’s estimated 700 to 800 people will vote early in-person each day in Virginia Beach between now and Election Day. Absentee ballots in most presidential elections in Virginia Beach come to about 10,000, but according to the Voter Registrar’s Office, they are expecting 75,000 to 100,000 of them this election. 

This year’s election turnout could be record-breaking.

On this first day of counting mail-in ballots, the registrar’s office staff were dealing with 4,600 ballots. By the day’s end, they would get through 3,247 of them.  

10 On Your Side was there to see the process, and saw where the ballots are locked up until they are taken out to be counted. They are run through an automatic envelope opener, then taken out and pressed completely flat for the ballot counter.  

Laura Kane was in charge of flattening the ballots, which turned out to be a really important job. The ballots won’t properly go through the vote counter unless they are flattened.

“We are also checking to make sure there’s only one ballot in this envelope because sometimes husbands and wives like to share the envelope,” Kane said.   

If that happens, one of the ballots in the envelope is randomly discarded. 

The ballots are in two stacks of 50 as they are run through the counter. Any snag or jam in the counting of ballots means rerunning them until they are entered properly.  Nothing is recorded until they are properly entered.  

It would take the third run of the first batch to get all 100 votes properly counted or put in other trays to be further analyzed.  

While the mail-in votes were counted upstairs, hundreds were lining up outside to vote in-person.   

Virginia is one of a few states that have early voting.  

Alicia Hunter is one of those voting early.

“I think it’s the best time to come. To come early because you don’t know what’s going to happen on November 3,” Hunter said. 

Virginia Beach Electoral Board members Jeff Marks and Tim Barrow talked with us outside the counting room. 

“It is a monumental change to have early voting, and I feel sorry for those around the country who are having to do all the counting on Election Day,” Barrow told us. 

Marks added counting all the ballots on one night also delays the announcement of the winner.

“I don’t see how they’ll be able to do it … they can’t … and that could be one of the reasons we don’t know the winner on election night.” 

For the first time, voters who mail in their ballots and have an issue with the ballot, like forgetting to write a signature, have until Friday at noon after the election to “cure” the issues with the ballot.

“Being able to correct it is a new part of the process. They haven’t been able to do that before,” Barrow said.

Some residents have complained that they still haven’t received their absentee ballot or no notice that your vote has been counted.

We are told those ballots will come soon, along with updated notices that residents’ votes have been counted. 

Frank Beckman doesn’t want to deal with Election Day chaos, so he is not taking any chances, 

“To me it’s about chaos at the polls. You fear the machines are not operating properly like in the last election. I want to make sure I get counted.”  

Marie Nacman feels it’s her responsibility to vote early. 

“I’m glad we don’t have chaos right now. I don’t need to see any of the chaos. We don’t need that in our lives, we have too much going on.” 

Mario Bortoluzzi said he was voting one way: “I’m down here with my family… We are voting Republican. Very strong Republican.” 

Hunter, meanwhile, is voting the other way.

“These crowds down here show me this is the most important election in our history… I do believe that. I know we need change,” she said.

VIRGINIA VOTER INFORMATION

  • When? Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3.
  • Where? You can find your polling place on the Virginia Department of Elections website.
  • What should I bring? Photo identification is required to vote. Find a full list of accepted IDs here.
  • How can I stay safe? If you plan to vote in-person, The Virginia Department of Health encourages voters to wear a face mask, wash their hands before and after voting, stay six feet away from each other and not touch their face or mask.

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