Voting is a powerful way to impact the future. This form of civic engagement accomplishes more than solely electing candidates. Voting spotlights issues, showcases the political power of groups, and influences the agendas of our political parties. Voting is extra important in Virginia because our elections are always close.
At the same time, voting may seem intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. This election-- like every other one-- is constantly called “the most important election of our lifetime.” It’s certainly true that every election plays a vital role in our everyday lives, but don’t let the pressure sway you from participating. So, while it’s okay to be nervous, casting a ballot is really simple.
Here’s what to expect when you're electing in Virginia.
You might vote in a weird location.
Often times, you’ll vote in a school or a library. Sometimes, however, a voting precinct is in peculiar spaces including fire and police stations, churches, even a hair salon! Prevent confusion and getting lost by looking up your polling precinct prior to the election. Use the tool below to find yours!
There might be long lines on election day.
Voting was not always a right granted to all of us. Many of us believe that voting is so important that we’ll put up with lines lasting an hour or more. It’s kind of beautiful if you think about it. However, you may not want- or be able- to wait that long, but you should still make your voice heard. The best methods to avoid long lines are to go to the polls early or mid-afternoon on election day, or vote absentee. Voting absentee is pretty easy, and we’ve created helpful guides and resources to help you do it! Hurry though, because the last day to vote absentee in Virginia is October 30th by mail and November 2nd in person!
Candidates aren’t the only options on the ballot.
Maybe you registered to vote because you really like one candidate. Maybe you're voting because it’s the most basic form of good citizenship. Regardless of the reason or who you’re voting for, our elections impact more than a politician’s career. This year, our ballots propose two referendums (policies up for adoption into our state constitution). Virginia’s comprehensive ballots depend on voters being informed, but locating information on all candidates and referendums is not an easy process. That is unless you click the button below because our BallotReady tool provides all the information about YOUR ballot in one place!
You must show a valid, photo ID to vote.
Virginia is one of the 17 states that require a photo ID to cast a ballot (lucky us). Generally speaking, most government-issued IDs are accepted if they display a photo. The whole list can be found below, but there are a few key points to remember. Your Virginia driver license is acceptable even if the address does not match where you are registered. Public and private Student IDs are all valid forms as long as they come from a Virginia Institution. When in doubt, use a passport if you have one.
There’s a small chance you’ll be denied your right to vote at first, BUT don’t let that discourage you from trying!
If you registered to vote before October 15th, 2018, it is super unlikely that you’ll be denied. Unfortunately, our elections are imperfect and a denial may happen through no fault of your own. If this happens on election day, don’t give up! There are many options to rectify the situation.
Show your voter registration card. Sometimes the denial is the product of a clerical error. Bring your voter registration card, the one mailed to you after you registered, to prove you can vote in that precinct.
Call Voteriders or another protect-the-vote organization. Poll workers aren’t lawyers so a denial may come from a misinterpretation of the law. Legal expertise is not a requirement to vote, but knowing your rights certainly helps. Orgs like Voteriders provide free, immediate, legal guidance in cases where a person is turned away at the polls. If denied on election day, call (844) 338-8743 to get help.
Request a Provisional Ballot. A provisional ballot is given to voters who wish to vote, but their eligibility is in question. Once a provisional ballot is cast, the voter must follow-up with the board of elections to prove their eligibility. Hopefully, you won’t end up in this situation, but, you’ll find your rights as a Virginia voter below in case you want to be extra prepared. Remember, election day is about making your voice count. So if your eligibility is in question, ask for a provisional ballot!
Taking an “I Voted Sticker” selfie is cool, and you should definitely do it.
This expectation is pretty obvious. Democracy works best when more people believe in the power of our collective voice. Not only is it cool to celebrate your civic duty on social media, but your post might remind others to do the same!
About the Author
Tim Cywinski is the Director of Engagement at Virginia21. He is responsible for coordinating action among all Virginia21 leaders, managing the organization's program, building relationships with other like-minded organizations and the press, and creating educational content. In addition to serving on the civic engagement committee for the Urban League of Greater Richmond Young Professionals, Tim presents trainings on advocacy, strategic communications, and lobbying to various audiences around the Commonwealth. Tim earned a bachelor’s in Political Science from Roanoke College, and he now resides in Richmond, VA. In his free time, Tim enjoys playing kickball, writing, and forcing friends to attend his karaoke “concerts”.