Virginia Prepares For Flood Of Absentee Votes
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
As we just mentioned, voting is officially underway this week in Virginia, one of three states along with Kentucky and Georgia that kicked off absentee and early voting yesterday. To get a sense of how it's going, Pat Bower is on the line now. She's general registrar for the city of Lynchburg, Virginia. And so far, how is it going?
Ms. PAT BOWER (General Registrar, Lynchburg, Virginia): Well, we're just beginning of course, and the walk-in absentee voting has been fairly slow so far. I think we only have 12 votes on our touch screens machine that we use for absentee voting in the office. We're struggling to get our first mailing of absentee ballots out to people who need to vote by mail. And that includes 540 some individuals all around the world essentially. And we're still working to do that, we hope to have that actually over to the post office later today.
BRAND: And struggling because there are so many?
Ms. BOWER: Struggling yes, and because our ballots were delivered late this time. There was a delay in approval from the State Board of Elections which affected everybody in the state really. Consequently, the printer had to work all weekend to get the absentee ballots to us and he walked in about two o'clock yesterday afternoon. So then of course we had three volunteers yesterday afternoon folding those eight and a half by fourteen ballots and putting them in the - in a sealed envelope that then goes in the pack that we had previously prepared.
BRAND: We've been hearing that there is a big increase in the number of people who want to vote early this year about a third of all voters nationwide. Are you seeing that where you are, an increase?
Ms. BOWER: Well we don't have early voting in Virginia in the same sense that North Carolina for instance does. In Virginia you have to have a reason, one of the reasons listed on the absentee application for needing to vote absentee.
BRAND: What are those reasons?
Ms. BOWER: Being a student outside of Lynchburg, being away on business on Election Day, being away on vacation or personal business on Election Day. Having a physical disability or illness that prevents you from going to the polls, or you are caring for someone full time in that position.
It also includes our election officials who are not assigned to the precinct they would normally be voting. And of course that includes the - all the overseas residents and people visiting overseas. Missionaries overseas, as well as all the military folks that are overseas.
BRAND: There has been some confusion in terms of absentee voting for students and there are a number of colleges and universities in and around where you are in Lynchburg are you seeing any problems?
Ms. BOWER: That's right.
BRAND: With students voting in Virginia and what the residency requirements are?
Ms. BOWER: Yes, there is a great confusion at this point about that issue. And it's been a bugaboo issue for registrars for many years already, because state law is vague about registration for college students. State law requires both the domicile and a place of abode to be registered to vote in Virginia.
BRAND: Isn't that the same thing?
Ms. BOWER: No. Domicile is your permanent legal residence. Place of abode can be just where you lay your head at night.
BRAND: So if they're home, if they're from out of state or somewhere else, can they still vote in Virginia or no?
Ms. BOWER: As of a couple of weeks ago, we're having to register them in Virginia if they decide that Virginia is their legal residence.
BRAND: So, they will be allowed to vote in Lynchburg?
Ms. BOWER: Yes, as things stand at this point.
BRAND: Patricia Bower is General Registrar for the city of Lynchburg, Virginia talking about early and absentee voting in Virginia. Thank you very much.
Ms. BOWER: You're very welcome.
BRAND: Stay with us NPR's Day to Day continues.
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