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Virginia's early voting trend continues following law changes, pandemic effects

Through a month of early voting, nearly twice as many people have voted in the November election compared to the last Virginia governor's race in 2017

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — More Virginia voters are choosing to cast their ballots early, following a trend that started last year.

About 370,000 people in the Commonwealth have voted as of October 14, with about two and a half weeks left until Election Day.

About 192,000 people voted early in 2017 for the last gubernatorial election.

The increase is a product of pandemic effects and Virginia's voting law changes -- such as the introduction of no-excuse absentee voting and removal of the photo ID requirement.

“We think it does provide more opportunities, it’s more convenient than having to show up on election day," said Deb Wake, the president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. "It’s a good sign for representation and for a healthy democracy.”

Arlene Grobes, a Virginia Beach voter, cast her ballot early for the first time last year. She said the pandemic was a big reason why, but now she plans to vote early each election.

“I will keep moving and doing this because it works well with my schedule," Grobes said Friday after casting her ballot. "Hopefully, this is a trend. I feel more people will vote if they have options like this."

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Virginia Beach election officials said close to 15,000 people in the city have already voted for this election, about double the 2017 count of 7,585. 

About 60 percent of all Virginia voters in the November 2020 Presidential election voted early, a record high.

The trend toward more early voting means Election Day results will look slightly different.

Election officials, by law, can now pre-process absentee ballots received before Election Day, but they can only count them and add the vote totals starting on election night.

This means voters should expect larger numbers of votes from the CAP (Central Absentee Precinct) when they check for updated results.

“People need to also manage their expectations that as more people vote absentee, it may take longer to process those votes," Wake said.