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More than 115,000 voters in Hampton Roads have already requested absentee ballots

Virginia registrars will start sending out absentee ballots Friday. All seven cities report record-setting numbers of absentee ballot requests.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Hampton Roads cities are setting new records for how many people are requesting to vote absentee in the November election.

More than 115,000 voters in the Seven Cities have already requested absentee ballots, and there are still five more weeks for voters to request to vote absentee. The first mail-out of absentee ballots in Virginia is this Friday, Sept. 18.

In comparison, about 68,000 people voted absentee in the Seven Cities in the 2016 Presidential Election.

“We may look back on this in several years and say the pandemic is the thing that ushered in voting by mail across the country in a way that had not been [seen] up to this point," said 13News Now political analyst Quentin Kidd.

The Virginia Department of Elections reports 815,000 absentee ballot applications have been approved as of Sept. 16.

Kidd said he expects 50 percent of Virginia voters could cast their ballots before Election Day, either through mail voting or early voting.

“A lot of people are going to say voting by mail is pretty convenient, it’s pretty safe, there weren’t a lot of problems, why don’t we do this more often," Kidd said. “I think we’re going to see more voting by mail going forward than we’ve seen in the past.”

Kidd also predicts that Virginia's easing of absentee voting restrictions will increase voter turnout.

“We’re seeing the momentum and energy in these numbers, I think we’re going to see that energy and momentum reflected in turnout rates," he said.

Some local registrars report dramatic spikes. Virginia Beach plans to send out more than 43,000 ballots starting Friday. At the first mail-out in 2016, Virginia Beach sent out about 4,000 absentee ballots, less than 10% of this year’s requests so far.

Kidd said increased voting by mail could cut lines at the polls on Election Day and, in the future, cause campaigns to start appealing to voters earlier, trying to reach voters who cast ballots weeks before Election Day arrives.

Absentee statistics for the Seven Cities in Hampton Roads are below:

Virginia Beach

  • As of September 16: 43,335 absentee ballot applications
  • First mail out in 2016: 4,000 absentee ballots
  • Total absentee ballots in 2016: About 30,000

Chesapeake

  • As of September 16: About 21,000 absentee ballot applications
  • First mail out in 2016: 5,000 absentee ballots
  • Total absentee ballots in 2016: About 16,000

Norfolk

  • As of September 16: TBD
  • As of August 11: About 7,500 mail-in applications
  • First mail out in 2016: 1,481 absentee ballots

Portsmouth

  • As of September 16: About 8,242 absentee ballot applications
  • Total absentee ballots in 2016: About 4,242

Suffolk

  • As of September 16: About 7,800 absentee ballot applications
  • First mail out in 2016: 613
  • Total absentee ballots in 2016: 2,619

Hampton

  • As of September 16: About 13,422 absentee ballot applications
  • First mail out in 2016: 800 absentee ballots
  • Total absentee ballots in 2016: About 3,000

Newport News

  • As of September 16: About 13,500 absentee ballot applications
  • Total absentee ballots in 2016: 5,834