New Guidance on Absentee Ballots

 

Over the first few days of early voting, a number of Virginians who had previously requested absentee ballots but had not received those ballots appeared at registrar’s offices and satellite locations across the Commonwealth to vote in person. The statute governing this situation, Va. Code § 24.2-708(B), was unclear, so we sought clarification.As the ELECT guidance explains “[i]f the voter states either they have not received their mail ballot or have lost their mail ballot,” the voter should be directed to sign SBE-708 (the “Gold Form”) and be allowed to vote a regular ballot after doing so. Please confirm that your registrar has seen this guidance and is in conformity with it.

(NB: This only applies to the early voting period; on Election Day, the voter must cast a provisional ballot. However, unlike other provisional ballots that require the voter to take further action to “cure” an issue, these provisional ballots will automatically convert into a regular ballot once the locality’s electoral board confirms that the absentee ballot was not cast.)

Additionally, the guidance notes that “it is not appropriate for election officials to question a voter who states that they have not received or lost their mail ballot.” So long as the voter “has [1] applied for and has [2] been sent an absentee ballot,” § 24.2-708(B) applies if “for any reason . . . [the voter] does not receive the ballot[.]”

If a voter has received their previously requested absentee ballot but prefers to vote in person, they should bring the ballot with them to the early voting location to exchange for a regular ballot. If they do not bring the ballot with them, they will have to vote a provisional ballot—but that provisional will automatically convert after the electoral board confirms the absentee ballot was not cast.

Questions? Please contact your local Registrar https://vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation/PublicContactLookup