First lady Dorothy McAuliffe cast an absentee ballot on Tuesday morning at the voter registrar’s office in Richmond, highlighting the opportunity to cast a vote in Virginia ahead of Election Day.

But her vote also demonstrated that Virginia is in the minority of states when it comes to early voting because it requires voters to offer an acceptable excuse as to why they can’t vote in person on Election Day.

In 37 states and the District of Columbia, some period of early voting is allowed and “no excuse or justification is required,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

As of January, Virginia was one of 13 states that required an excuse for absentee voting before Election Day, along with Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.

In order to cast an early ballot in Virginia, a voter must cite one of 19 excuses deemed acceptable under state law, such as military service, illness, being away from home, pregnancy, and a long commute tacked on to a long workday.

The first lady of Virginia’s excuse was that she would be out of town on personal business.  Why is it necessary for any of us to provide an excuse?  Is this our paternalistic General Assembly once again deciding what is best for us or is this law more nefarious?  Is our Republican-controlled General Assembly attempting to suppress our votes?

If you vote early, vote absentee or vote by mail, Virginians must provide a reason.  There are 19.  Technically, Virginia does not have early voting which is sort of “no fault” voting.  In Virginia a citizen must always provide a reason if they don’t go to the official polling place on the official day.

I want a window of opportunity where I can vote early, vote by mail, or walk into a satellite office and cast my ballot.  I don’t want to stretch the truth or out and out lie in order to exercise my right to vote.

Virginians need to demand that the General Assembly change the laws to making voting easier.  Do not accept no for an answer.  There really is no acceptable reason not to open up this window of opportunity.

17 Thoughts to “Voting early, Voting absentee, Voting by mail”

  1. Robin Hood

    You’re right about what should be, but the harsh reality is that the Republican majorities in the Virginia General Assembly have to restrict voting as much as they can as a matter of self-preservation. We get a chance to vote for the House of Delegates next year and we need all of the people who voted absentee this year or vote on Tuesday to show up next year and sent people to Richmond who will do what needs to be done.

    (By the way, Comey cleared Clinton again today after checking Weiner’s computer. Clumsy, but better late than never.)

    1. That innuendo should have never been dropped on a Friday night. It was irresponsible and quite possibly illegal.

      Comey has some ‘splaining to do.

  2. El Guapo

    One of the problems for Virginians in this election cycle is going to be the two questions. It’s yes or no. The problem is going to be that a lot of people aren’t going to be prepared. I voted early or absentee whatever you want to call it. I have to work that day from 4:45 a.m. until after 8. Anyway, it took me less than a minute to vote. They told me that because of the questions people are taking as long as 15 minutes because they aren’t prepared and don’t understand the questions which are written in legalese.

    With the confusion of these two questions and the expected turnout with such a hotly contested and close election, the lines are going to be long and slow moving. So be prepared and go at an off-peak time if you can.

    1. What are those questions, Guapo? I don’t even remember.

  3. NorthofNokesville

    Real simple: “I have a religious obligation on election day.” No documentation required, nor any need to explain your chief concern is avoiding other peoples’ religion.

    1. Its still having to make up an excuse and a form of prevarication. Why should I have to have a reason? I can’t think of any reason to have to have a reason.

      1. NorthofNokesville


        It’s an exception, and it drives cost for the state/locality and there is risk because of the physical integrity of the ballot. Given the range of states that do it, seems like a “meh” issue.

      2. I would like to see all voting by mail.

      3. NorthofNokesville


        Google “USPS successful delivery rate” and you might feel less certain about that.

      4. 94%. I would imagine it would be more accurate with a common known address. I mean who has ever had a letter to the IRS get lost?

        On the other hand, how accurate is the voting machine? Can it be hacked? I don’t think one is better than the other. Perhaps there could be an option for those who actually wanted to go to the polls. They could carry their “mailer” in to be hand counted.

      5. NorthofNokesville


        Every method has flaws, but in-person tends to be fraud-reducing. Harder to cheat people face to face, and generally I don’t think people do cheat (either voting or counting). Of course, it’s not the voting that matters, it’s the counting. Mail-only also presents ballot access issues – not everyone has a mailbox, very few people have a unique/unshared mailbox, and many people have public mailboxes. Horror stories about what you find when you rip out walls of old mail slots.

        The system also has trade-offs inherently. Ideally, we would have accuracy at an individual level, but we’ve purposefully tried to abstract vote from voter in many residual ways, so what would be best for individual ID (hard to fake things like retina scans or multi-factor authentication biomarkers) causes consternation re tracking, anonymity, voter access, etc. That implicitly means zero fraud and zero inaccuracy is not considered optimal.

      6. How much voter fraud is there really? Not much at all. I think there should be options. If people want to vote in person, open the polls, but let us who want to vote by mail do so without having to provide a reason.

      7. NorthofNokesville


        True, there is not much fraud (though it’s hard to spot). Estimates I’ve seen range from 2000-3000 identifiable cases in the last 10-15 years. Gets more complicated if that estimate is off by an order of magnitude, but even 20-30K over that time period is 40 per state per year on average. Enough to swing a 2000 Florida, but not statistically likely to swing anything.

        That being said, stopping voter fraud seems less about worrying that a specific outcome gets changed than preserving overall integrity. It’s a bit like people who protest voter ID laws, which recently scholarship suggests have little if any impact on actual turnout or voting. But scope isn’t the point.

        I do agree options are good, and I’m not seriously suggesting biometrics. That would deflect too many legitimate voters. And I don’t care much one way or the other about requiring reasons. I don’t see much partisan or principled reason for or against any longer, and while I’m sure there were good reasons before (or at least reasons that base a rational basis test), I wonder what they could be now.

      8. I think that my reaction stems from being forced to lie about illness while working. I have used two in recent times about voting–going out of town and “my illness.” Well, my knee absolutely won’t let me stand in line 2 hours. But I shouldn’t have to say that.

        I do think, generally speaking, that Democrats want to increase voting and Republicans want to decrease voting.

        I don’t mind a picture ID. I mind having to bellow my name at the polling place when the poll worker is standing right there with my ID in his or her hand, looking at my name and address. It’s unnecessary and it invades my privacy.

      9. NorthofNokesville


        I agree on the bellowing. It’s like self checkout at the grocery store… “Please place your Preparation H on the belt.” Why?

        The increase/decrease voting thing I agree with directionally, but it’s the hoped-for outcome that differs. And it’s one of those scenarios where each party is making a judgment call that happens to line up with interests (which is always suspect). Dem’s want to increase voting, and many don’t seem to mind if some extra votes get counted – false positives – because, all things being equal, those votes are likely to be blue (felons, illegals/undocumented, etc may cross the political spectrum but skew blue). Rep’s on the other hand are less sensitive to false negatives, ie, if steps taken to stop a tiny bit of fraud might also deter a legit voter. But neither side is really interested in solving the problem at any cost.

        At a deeper level, these tendencies line up pretty well with underlying ideological worries. Conservatives (broadly, with massive over-generalization) tend to worry about free riders and externalities… people gaming the system, costs being borne by people who don’t benefit, etc. Liberals (again, writ large) tend to worry more than someone entitled to something may not get it. Good policy should address both.

        Happy election day.

      10. Back at ya! I am planning on leaving town in a while, just to clear my own air.

        Oddly enough, inmates tend to be more conservative than you might think. I was surprised to hear it also. Remember I have a very good friend who was formerly in that population. Naturally I asked why….

        Conservative newspapers glut the market. There are very few copies of the more mainstay or liberal papers donated to prisons. Additionally, most long term prisoners have some sort of religious experience. It might not last but the experience is there.

        Now, about the fact that minority populations tend to be in greater abundance. That is another discussion for another day.

        Having said all that….I don’t know where it leads us.

        As for undocumented immigrants and voting…isn’t that unconstitutional in federal elections?

        I am probably somewhere in the middle. I think that proof of citizenship should be just as strong for voting registration as it is for driving. Prove it. Done. As a female, I can tell you its tough for driving. I let mine expire, accidentally, when the laws changed from month of birth to actual date of birth. I came in with my birth certificate. That wasn’t good enough. I was told my name didn’t match. I said despite how it feels, I wasnt born married. I had to go home and frantically dig up an official marriage license with the state seal.


  4. Starryflights

    Early voting is good.

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