LEBANON, Va. (WJHL) – Voting in Virginia this year is being conducted differently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of changing the date of elections altogether, individual precincts have taken it upon themselves to make adjustments to polling locations that would ensure the safety of all polling officials and voters.
This election cycle, most people chose to vote by absentee ballot. In Abingdon, election officials told News Channel 11 they had well over 700 absentee ballots before noon on election day. However, not everyone likes to cast their ballot from home, some people still believe in the traditional method of voting which is physically going to the polls.
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While there is an on-going pandemic, voters were able to still vote in person. Staff operating the polls as well as voters wore personal protective equipment while inside, with additional voting safety measures in place. Voters were also able to cast their ballots curbside at select polling locations, but in Lebanon, they changed the definition of curbside voting.
Election officials in Russell County hosted its first-ever drive-thru voting site, utilizing the fire department next to their usual polling location.
Voters were able to cast their ballots from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. without ever leaving their cars. “They go down to the voting machine, and they physically, from their vehicle, feed it into the voting machine,” said Russell County Electoral Board Chairman, Archie Combs.
While some voters loved the idea and hope it stays in place for future elections, other voters said it was a strange adjustment, however, they appreciated the effort to keep citizens safe while still allowing them the opportunity to make their voices heard.
Combs believes holding elections this way actually increased expected voter turnout. “It surprised me. A lot of people that normally do not come out and vote, are coming out and voting because they wanted to see how this thing was going to work,” he said.
As far as what the plans are for the November election in Southwest Virginia, election officials say they hope to return to usual polling and election procedures, but nothing is yet set in stone.