RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- With one week to go until Election Day, state data shows nearly 350,000 voters have not returned their absentee ballots in Virginia.    

Generally, the United States Postal Service says voters should mail their ballots in at least one week before their state’s deadline. Virginians can track the status of their ballot online using the state’s citizen portal.

Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Chris Piper said that deadline has been pushed back to accommodate record numbers of mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic. Piper said ballots still have to be postmarked by Election Day but they will be accepted until noon on Friday, November 6. 

“I anticipate that ballots will be coming in after Friday at noon. I just hope not that many,” Piper said.

In 2018, Piper said more than 3,000 ballots were rejected in Virginia because they arrived too late. To avoid that risk completely, Piper said voters who have yet to drop their ballots in the mail should use a drop box instead. 

After a last-minute authorization by the General Assembly, Piper said drop boxes are required for the first time at every registrar’s office and satellite polling location. That means voters can skip the mail as well as the line and hand deliver their ballot in a matter of minutes. Voters can do so on or before Election Day.

After some state Republicans raised concern about the security of drop boxes, the Virginia Department of Elections crafted regulations for every locality to follow. Whether the box is inside or outside, Piper said the underlying security standards are the same. He said election staff needs to watch it at all times and—when that’s not possible—security cameras have to monitor it around the clock. 

Piper said the boxes are emptied each day, either by two election officers from opposing parties or by two members of registrar’s staff, to ensure each one is counted.

“If you’re just not sure and you have any concern, I encourage you to just go ahead and put your ballot in the drop box at your drop box location and then you have that peace of mind and that security of knowing that it has arrived,” Piper said.  

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