For those of us living in a border community like Bluefield, it is sometimes easy to mistake a few subtle differences between West Virginia and Virginia. For example, school officials are elected to a board of education in West Virginia and a school board in Virginia. A prosecuting attorney will oversee a trial in West Virginia whereas in Virginia he or she is called a Commonwealth Attorney. And in West Virginia you have early voting whereas in Virginia you cast what is commonly known as an absentee ballot.

The latter example will soon be a moot point as early voting is now coming to Virginia. For the first time in the state’s history, residents of the Commonwealth will be able to vote early beginning Sept. 18. Early voting is different from absentee voting by mail in that residents are allowed to cast a ballot in person at their local voter registration office well before election day. That way you can avoid long lines at the polls on November 3. There also is no need to be concerned about the security of a ballot cast by mail since you will be voting in person at your local voter registration office.

Tazewell County Registrar Brian Earls said the change was made this year by the General Assembly to allow early voting for seven days prior to the election. However, that was later extended by 45 days due to the ongoing pandemic. With that extension, area residents can cast a ballot as early as Sept. 18. In other words, you won’t have to wait until Nov. 3 to vote in the closely watched presidential race. You can vote as early as Sept. 18 in Virginia.

“We will have the longest early voting period than any state in the country,” Earls told the Daily Telegraph last week. “The whole year, we were trying to figure out how to adjust for early voting for seven days, then it jumped to 45.”

On Sept. 18 and through Oct. 31 a registered voter can visit Earls’ office in North Tazewell and cast a vote in person, rather than go through the absentee ballot process.

Before, residents could visit the office to apply for an absentee ballot and then complete the ballot and vote. But now no application or absentee ballot will be required for in-person voting.

In West Virginia, it is common for registrars to offer several different locations for early voting. Since this is the first year for early voting in Virginia, it will only be conducted at the registrar’s office, which in Tazewell County is located at 2848 Riverside Drive, North Tazewell.

In terms of absentee balloting, Tazewell County also is seeing increased requests for applications this year. More than 800 residents of Tazewell County have already requested an absentee ballot by mail.

Another change this year is the fact that a photo ID is no longer required in Virginia to vote. Instead, voters only need to bring an identifying document, which could be a pay stub or utility bill, for example, with the voter’s name and address.

For those who aren’t registered to vote in Virginia, the last day to register to vote is Oct. 13.

We are glad to see that Virginia is now offering in-person, early voting this year.

Given the recent debate over mail-in voting, many may opt this year to simply cast an early, in-person, ballot at their local voter registration office. There is nothing to worry about in terms of potential fraud since you will be voting in person, just as you normally would do on election day. The only difference is that you will be casting your ballot at the voter registration office as opposed to your local voting precinct.

With 45 days to vote early, beginning Sept 18, area residents will certainly have plenty of time to take advantage of early voting. 

We urge everyone to vote. And if you prefer to avoid long lines at the polls on election day, please take advantage of early voting in Virginia this year. It is a safe and convenient way to cast a ballot.

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