Election Day is only three weeks away, and Fairfax County’s registrar's office is now accepting absentee ballots by mail, by fax (703-324-3725) and in person.
In Virginia, you can cast an early ballot for a whole host of reasons, but simple convenience isn't one of them.
Because this is not an early voting state, those who cast absentee ballots before Nov. 6 are asked to provide a “valid excuse” that can range from a family vacation to a scheduling conflict at work. Go to the website of the State Board of Elections, sbe.virginia.gov, for more information and, if you qualify, to download an application for an absentee ballot.
In 38 of 50 U.S. states, you can simply go in and vote up to 45 days before Election Day without providing an excuse. That's a great idea, and the General Assembly ought to give it some consideration when it reconvenes in January.
Research confirms that if we make voting easier, participation rises significantly. Research also tells us that an extremely small percentage of the voting public (6-8 percent) remain undecided 30 days before an election. Most voters have made up their minds months — if not years — before and are simply waiting for Election Day to cast their ballots.
Does it really make sense to ask thousands of voters to stand in long lines at polling places or take off early from work or sacrifice family time to vote? Too often, those long lines and work-related conflicts are cited as reasons for not voting.
Going forward, Virginians should be encouraged, not simply permitted, to cast votes early. Our current system makes about as much sense as instructing every commuter in Northern Virginia to leave their home at precisely 7:15 each morning and leave work at exactly 5:30 that night.
It’s also worth reminding voters that they’ll be asked for identification when they show up at the polls next month. The state sent new cards out to every registered voter in Virginia during the past four weeks. If yours hasn't arrived in the mail by now, you might want to investigate.
Should you forget to carry that card with you on Nov. 6, don't panic. There are other forms of acceptable identification, including a valid Virginia driver's license, military ID, any federal, Virginia or local government-issued ID, an employer-issued photo ID card, a concealed-carry handgun permit or valid student ID issued by any institution of higher education located in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
A voter who fails to bring an acceptable ID to the polls will have to cast a provisional ballot.
Polls will open at 6 a.m. on Election Day, closing at 7 p.m.