WINCHESTER — Early voting for the Nov. 3 election kicked off Friday in Virginia, and local election officials say the day was a success.
Early in-person voting at voter registrar offices or satellite locations across Virginia is taking place until Oct. 31. Despite the unprecedented nature of early voting in Virginia, local voters said that the process was swift and easy.
Winchester resident Christina Chasler, 72, said that early voting for her went “perfectly.” At around 9 a.m. she traveled to the City Voter Registration Office at 107 N. East Lane to cast her vote. She said she wanted to vote “as soon as possible” and that the process was simple and quick. Chalser voted for Democratic presidential candidate former vice president Joe Biden.
“He shares the values that I have, and I think most people have,” Chasler said. “He’s a good, honest man.”
Married couple Mei Fien and Richard Garnes, both 76, also voted for Biden at the City Voter Registration Office. They said the process took no more than five minutes and that they were glad they didn’t have to stand in line for hours.
Mei Fien criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed nearly 200,000 Americans. President Donald Trump revealed to reporter Bob Woodward on Feb. 7 that COVID-19 was more deadly than the flu, but later downplayed the danger of the virus in public.
“Trump killed almost 200,000 people,” Mei Fien said. “There’s no excuse. … I want honesty and there’s no honesty from this administration. Look at how many people have gone to jail that worked for him. It’s a bad sign.”
Early-in person voting requires voters to fill out their ballot, which are then fed into a machine. Curbside voting is available upon request. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, officers of election wore masks, enforced social distancing and cleaned each station after someone filled out their ballot.
Winchester resident Ryan Hall, who is running as a Democrat for the 3rd Ward on City Council, said Friday morning that he waited no more than five minutes to vote.
“There were approximately 20 people in line. They processed everyone very quickly,” Hall said. “They had hand sanitizer, everyone was wearing a mask. I applaud our voter registrar for doing a good job.”
At the Frederick County satellite voting office at the Sunnyside Plaza, there was a steady line of people outside the door, but voters said the line moved quickly. People exiting the building said that the voting process took no more than 10 minutes. Karen Echement, 72, said early voting was “painless” and said she felt safe. Stephens City resident Peter Barnet, 64, said he’s “done much worse” in terms of having to wait in line to vote. Barnet voted for Biden, saying “there was simply not an alternative.”
Gainesboro resident Kim Woods, 57, said early voting went a lot smoother than she thought it would. She voted Friday because she can’t drive and relies on other people for transportation. She said she voted for all Republican candidates.
“The Democrats, in general, scare the hell out of me,” Woods said. “There’s too many [issues] to name. Being connected with BLM [Black Lives Matter] scares me. And I think that [Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy] Pelosi would end up running too much of the country. And I don’t want her running the country. I don’t like anything she says. Everything she says scares me.”
Gainesboro resident Karen Gahr, 77, said the early voting was “fabulous” and that she wanted to vote early because she has been sick and “didn’t want to croak before Nov. 3.” She said she voted for Trump and the Republican party “all the way.”
“I think the country will be destroyed under the Democrats,” Gahr said. “It’s that simple. I think they are a bunch of lunatics.”
She called Biden “brainless” and his running mate Kamala Harris “a loose cannon” while calling Trump a “classic negotiator.” She strongly opposes the Democratic party’s support for abortion rights.
Jackie Owen, 89, who voted for all Republican candidates, said she is “dead set against abortion.” Woods, Gahr and Owen defended Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they agreed with his decision to downplay the virus to avoid a panic.
Frederick County resident Tom Reed said he’s a conservative Christian and is voting Republican. He said wants lower taxes and opposes abortion and same-sex marriage.
“I think there’s a lack of appreciation that a family is a husband and a wife and children,” Reed said. “I think a marriage is between a man and a woman. I think it’s biblical.”
Clarke County Voter registrar Barbara Bosserman said that while there was a constant stream of voters coming into the Clarke County Voter Registrar’s Office, most voters waited no more than three minutes. She called it a smooth process. Out of Clarke County’s 11,488 registered voters, 125 voted Friday.
“It was very successful,” Bosserman said. “Of course, Clarke County voters are the best. Everybody comes in with a wonderful attitude.”
Frederick County Voter Registrar Rich Venskoske said that the county had 457 voters on Friday (there were 62,426 registered Frederick County voters as of Sept. 10). Venskoske said that although there was some confusion from people regarding voting by mail, he considers the day a success.
Winchester Voter Registrar Elizabeth Martin said fewer than 200 of the city’s 17,000 registered voters cast ballots Friday.
In addition to in-person voting, Virginia voters may also vote by mail. Any registered voter may request an absentee ballot. Absentee ballots began being mailed out on Friday.The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 election is Oct. 13.
Where to vote early in-person
• At the Frederick County Voter Registration Office, 107 N. Kent St., Suite 102, Winchester, in-person voting will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with the exception of federal and state holidays. Voting will also take place the two Saturdays prior to Election Day — Oct. 24 and Oct. 31 — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• A satellite office at 261-263 Sunnyside Plaza Drive will be available to Frederick County voters for in-person voting from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, with the exception of federal and state holidays. Voting will take place the two Saturdays prior to Election Day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In Winchester, in person-voting will take place at the City Voter Registration Office, 107 N. East Lane, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. the two Saturdays prior to Election Day.
In-person voting will take place at the Berryville-Clarke County Government Center, 101 Chalmers Court, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. the two Saturdays prior to Election Day.
Voting by mail
The deadline to request a ballot by mail is Oct. 23. Requests can be sent to your local elections office. The mail-in ballot application is also available online at www.elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/absentee-voting.
When the ballot arrives, read it carefully and follow the instructions to complete and return it. Ballots should be mailed to the voter’s respective registrar’s office or returned in-person or deposited in a secure drop box. Prior to Election Day, secure drop boxes will be available at all early voting sites. On Election Day, drop boxes will be available at each polling location.
Local elections officials stressed that ballots must be returned in the locality in which the person is registered to vote. For example, Winchester residents cannot drop off their ballots at elections offices in Frederick or Clarke counties.
Ballots will be accepted in-person until 7 p.m. Nov. 3. Ballots mailed to elections offices will be accepted until noon the Friday after Election Day as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3.