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Early voting shatters mark, more to come / October 15, 2020

Almost a month into Virginia’s 45-day early voting period, a quarter of Halifax County’s registered voters have either voted or requested absentee ballots to return by mail.

The Halifax County Registrar’s Office has counted up 4,739 votes so far — 3,293 cast in person at the registrar’s office in Halifax, and 1,446 ballots received through the mail. Registrar Heather Harding said Wednesday marked the heaviest day for in-person voting at the Bethune Office Complex since Virginia’s early voting period began Sept. 18.

“It’s been our highest day,” she said.

This is the first November General Election in which Virginia has offered no-excuses absentee voting. General Assembly Democrats and Gov. Ralph Northam pushed through a change in state law to broaden early voting in Virginia. Previously, voters were required to provide a permitted excuse for voting absentee, such as a work scheduling conflict that would keep people from going to the polls on Election Day.

Harding said county residents have told her they appreciate being able to vote early. “A lot of it is convenience,” she said. “People don’t want to have to stand in line on Election Day.”

In the 2016 presidential race, 17,001 county voters cast ballots in the race between Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and third party candidates. Four years ago, 1,636 voters in Halifax took part in the presidential election voting by absentee ballot.

The 4,739 vote tally through Wednesday is nearly three times the entire absentee vote total in 2019, and constitutes nearly 28 percent of the total 2016 presidential vote.

But there’s more to come: Harding said the registrar’s office has issued another 1,337 absentee ballots that citizens can return by mail, or place in drop box located outside of the office. Voters can also submit the ballots they’ve requested by mail in person at the registrar’s office.

Halifax County has 24,543 registered voters. The number who have already voted, or requested absentee ballots to return by mail, is 6,076.

The deadline to request an application for mail-in absentee ballots is Oct. 23 by 5 p.m. In-person voting runs through Saturday, Oct. 31, the weekend before Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Any marked ballot can be placed in the dropbox at the registrar’s office up until 7 p.m. on Election Day. Mailed ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 will be counted as long as they arrive by three days later, Nov. 6.

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