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Voter advocates share insight, common mistakes made in voting process

“Election Protection” is the country’s largest and longest running non-partisan voter protection coalition.

RICHMOND, Va. — Polls open at 6 a.m. on Election Day, but many people have already voted early by mail or plan to drop off their absentee ballot on election day.

However, voter advocates say there is one issue a lot of voters are running into: forgetting the witness signature.

“We have observed that for many voters that have returned their absentee ballot -- have been missing that witness signature because they had gotten used to this not being required from the last three elections," said Alexandria Bratton of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table.

This time around, a witness signature is required on your vote-by-mail ballot.

But, if you forgot it, Bratton said there are guidelines in place to fix it.

“That [guidelines] allows voters to visit their local registrar office to fix it, which we have been seeing a lot of across the state,” she said.

Once a general registrar notices that you returned your absentee ballot without a witness signature, you will be notified within three days.

But you have until noon on the third day after the election to correct it – that’s Friday, November 5th.

Bratton was speaking at a press conference hosted by “Election Protection,” the country’s largest and longest running non-partisan voter protection coalition.

A lot has changed in Virginia when it comes to voting, and Bratton said it has changed for the better. 

“And honestly we’re so grateful. We have drastically made voting easier for folks by removing barriers that often act as a roadblock,” Bratton said. 

Last year, Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation that repealed the state’s voter ID law and added a list of additional ID’s that people can use. There’s also an option to sign an ID Confirmation Statement at the polls.

“In case someone comes to a polling location and does not have any ID on them," Bratton said.

If you head to the polls without acceptable ID - you can either sign the ID confirmation statement or vote a provisional ballot. If you do the latter, you’ll have to provide a copy of your ID later or sign the confirmation statement.

Damon Hewitt is the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which is the group in charge of “Election Protection.”

He said his group is already receiving calls from concerned voters about the process.

“Thus far, most of the calls that come in have been regarding questions about voting absentee, by mail, or dropping ballots off with the drop box. Also on election day, voting logistics. So those are, in some ways, par for the course," Hewitt said.  

He said his team wants to make sure everyone can exercise their Constitutional right to vote.  

“These elections are important," he said. "They’re important because of the politics that are happening right near you are sometimes more readily felt and more tangible than the politics in Washington D.C.”

When you head to the polls tomorrow, you might notice a few election monitors standing outside.

“Election Protection” will have volunteers at the polls and volunteers monitoring their voter assistance hotlines.

If you feel as though you’re running into any challenges, you can call them at “866-OUR-VOTE.”

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