Changes to voting laws expected to drive turnout, workload

By Brandon Martin

Changes to voting laws are expected to lead to increased voter turnout and an increased workload for local election officials.

City of Martinsville Registrar Cynthia Barbour said the expansion of absentee and mail-in voting are among the biggest changes.

An important piece of the new legislation is that it “no longer requires a reason from a qualified voter to vote absentee, Barbour said, and added that in July, her office received an estimated 250 vote-by-mail applications.

She said she is “expecting more than usual this year to vote by mail since it no longer requires a reason.”

An application must be submitted to vote by mail, Barbour said. It can be filed either online or on paper. She said her office can help with the process but noted the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is 11 days before Election Day.

Those opting to vote in-person at the Registrar’s Office must adhere to the commonly practiced social distancing protocols, Barbour said. Face masks are required in the office.

Voters who prefer the traditional method of voting in-person on Election Day will be able to do so at their normal polling places, according to Barbour.

She added that the expansion of acceptable forms of identification also means poll workers must account for more at polling places.

Barbour said the list of acceptable identification now includes voter confirmation documents and “a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document containing the name and address of the voter.

Overall, Barbour said she is “looking forward to a record turnout for this election with the options available to voters to exercise their right to vote.

With all the new voting options, Barbour said she expects her office to handle double or triple the amount of a normal presidential election year. In 2016, Barbour said that 579 people voted absentee, and 655 absentee votes cast in 2012.

In total, 5,941 people that turned out to vote in 2016, which accounted for 66 percent of the registered voters in the city. During the previous presidential election, 6,305 voters cast a ballot.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and all polling places are accessible to voters with special needs, she said, adding that curbside voting also is an option. Coronavirus prevention guidelines will also be practiced at the polls, Barbour added.

Officers of Elections are always needed, she said, adding that anyone interested may contact their individual locality. In Martinsville, call (276) 403-5122; in Henry County, call (276) 634-4697; in Patrick County, call (276) 694-7206.

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