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Virginia Beach General Registar: Voting by mail 'reliable and safe'; team prepares for 'record-breaking' absentee ballots

The general registrar also addressed those vote-by-mail applications a lot of people got in their mailboxes. In case you're wondering, they're legitimate.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — How reliable is absentee voting? Even the country’s highest office questioned the practice of sending ballots by mail, on Twitter. 

Virginia Beach’s General Registrar and Director of Elections Donna Patterson says voting by mail is nothing new, and this year her team is preparing for a record-breaking number of absentee ballots. 

“I think we’re going to break records this time,” Patterson said. “We have seen a major increase I would say most registrar offices have seen a major increase also.”  

Patterson believes the spike is due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Virginia Department of Elections has encouraged voters to vote from home. Anyone can request a ballot by selecting "disability or illness" under "choose an absentee ballot reason."

But is voting through the mail reliable? The short answer, according to Patterson, is yes.  

“It’s not something in Virginia that’s new. We’ve always had voting by mail and we’ve called it absentee in the past,” she said. “We’ve always counted these ballots. As a director of elections, I would say it’s reliable and it’s safe.” 

The fact is, we send sensitive documents through the mail all the time and ballots are no different. 

If you checked your mailbox recently, you might have gotten an application to register to vote by mail in Virginia. It came from a third-party organization.

Patterson said her office got a few calls about it, so in case you were wondering, it’s legit.  

“They are legitimate," Patterson said. "They are on a Department of Elections vote by mail form.”  

RELATED: VERIFY: Are absentee voting applications arriving the mail legit?

Patterson said it’s not unusual to see nonpartisan groups organize mass voter registration drives, whether in person or by mail. 

“You know, it’s normal for third-party organizations to send voters or citizens applications in the mail in presidential years,” she explained. 

If you already submitted a request for an absentee ballot, you don’t have to send in the form. But if you are going to use it, make sure you double-check that everything written on it, is accurate. 

“One thing voters need to do is make sure if they decide to use that form, that they review it - make sure their information is correct,” Patterson said.

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