Virginia election officials seeing significant increase in absentee voting, ramping up sanitation and protective measures

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – Voters will notice many differences when they head to the polls next week in Virginia.

Municipal elections take place next Tuesday and officials are working to keep you safe.

In addition, local election officials in Washington County, Virginia and the city of Bristol, Virginia say absentee voting is up in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic and are encouraging absentee voting either in-person, drive-thru or curb-side. The mail-in deadline has already passed.

“We’re hoping with the number of voters who have already voted by absentee ballot, we’ll have a limited number of voters who will be voting on election day,” said Washington County, Virginia Director of Elections Derek Lyall.

Lyall said more than 800 absentee ballots have been requested for the Abingdon town council election.

“Two years ago we had approximately 160 voters total vote absentee and so this is a significant increase over the election two years ago,” he said.

Lyall said in-person voting will still take place at Abingdon Town Hall on Tuesday.

In Bristol, Director of Elections Penny Limburg said they are also seeing an increase.

“Absentee voting is up tremendously, normally in a local election we’ll see around up to 60 people out to absentee vote,” said Limburg. “Right now, we’re about 1,334 people have already requested a ballot.”

All regular precincts in Bristol, Virginia will also be open for in-person voting on Tuesday.

This year, election officials are limiting those allowed inside precincts for in-person voting and encouraging social distancing.

“We’re only going to allow 5 voters in the precinct at one time because once you add your election officers, we’re going to try and maintain no more than 10 people in the precincts,” said Limburg.

They are also asking voters to wear cloth masks and use hand sanitizer before and after voting. Elections officers will also be provided gloves, masks and optional face shields.

“Our election officials will be routinely sanitizing the polling place, paying particular attention to high-touch, high-traffic areas throughout the polling place,” said Lyall.

Absentee ballots may be submitted by mailing them to your local election office or by returning them to your election office in-person. Ballots, whether mailed or delivered in-person, must be received by the election office by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

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