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New Virginia voting laws take effect: registrars say they make voting easier and more accessible

Lawmakers added more times for early voting, prepaid postage for absentee ballots, and early ballot processing requirements.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Virginia’s new voting laws are now active, with lawmakers adding more times for early voting, requiring drop-off boxes for absentee ballots, and enhancing vote-by-mail systems.

While some other states have passed laws restricting voting access, most of the new laws expand how Virginians can vote.

Election officials said new voting laws in the Commonwealth will push forward voting trends: more people will vote early and vote by mail.

“It makes it much more accessible and much easier for the voter. A little harder on our staff, but we’ve made the necessary changes along the way," said Chesapeake registrar Mary Lynn Pinkerman.

Early voting on Sundays is now an option in Virginia and all absentee ballots will arrive with pre-paid postage.

Election officials will also process absentee ballots before Election Day, giving voters more time to "cure" a ballot or correct any errors.

“It is very beneficial, in the past if we didn’t have this in place, their ballot wouldn’t have been counted, and that’s disheartening to know to a voter that they took all this time and energy to mail their ballot in and they forgot to do one simple step and their ballot wasn’t counted," said Christine Lewis, deputy registrar in Virginia Beach.

Registrars in Hampton Roads said the new laws give election officials more work to manage the voting process.

“It did help the voters but it puts more work on our team," Pinkerman said.

However, they said it makes voting much more accessible.

“It’s been wonderful to see things expanded and made easier for the voters and it just warms our heart when they come through and say wow, I had no clue it was that easy," Pinkerman said.

In Virginia Beach, Lewis said she expects voter turnout to increase for the upcoming gubernatorial race in November. She said she expects about half of all voters will vote early, thanks in part to the new laws.