WINCHESTER — Early in-person voting for the Nov. 2 election began Friday in Virginia and will continue until Oct. 30.
Voting is taking place locally at voter registration offices. Voters fill out their ballot and feed it into a machine. Curbside voting is also available.
Frederick County resident Canon Cochran was among the voters who cast their ballot on Friday. He voted at the Frederick County Administration Building at 107 N. Kent St. in Winchester. He described the process as “very easy” and said he didn’t have to wait in line. As a member of the Army who is going overseas in a few weeks, Cochran said he appreciated the opportunity to vote early.
This marks the second year in which voters in the commonwealth have been allowed to vote early without needing a reason to do so, per legislation passed by the General Assembly that went into effect last year.
Virginia voters are choosing their next governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and state delegates. There also are local races in Winchester, Frederick County, Stephens City and Boyce.
Cochran said he voted for the Republican candidates in the statewide races, including Glenn Youngkin for governor, Winsome Sears for lieutenant governor and Jason Miyares for attorney general.
“I think right now we just need to get everybody in Virginia back to work,” Cochran said. “And Glenn Youngkin is a proven job creator. He was very successful in the private sector. And I think that he can get Virginia back to work and make Virginia the number one state for business again.”
Cochran supports lower taxes and not mandating COVID-19 vaccines and believes Youngkin’s Democratic opponent, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, would not bring bipartisanship.
Red Bud District resident Kay Dawson, who was campaigning for Republican candidates outside the County Administration Building on Friday, said she opposes vaccine mandates and recent changes to the voting process, such as no longer requiring a photo ID.
“If we don’t get Virginia back, I just think it’s to the point where people are going to move out of this state,” Dawson said.
But Frederick County voters Charles and Patricia Wince said they voted for all Democratic candidates — including Terry McAullife for governor, Hala Ayala for lieutenant governor and Mark Herring for attorney general.
“Just generally, there’s not much in the Republican agenda that we agree with,” Charles Wince said.
Patricia Wince said she thinks the Democratic candidates were better than Republicans at getting people to wear masks and getting vaccinated to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Frederick County voter Raymond Taylor also voted a straight Democratic ticket.
He accused the Republican party of spreading COVID-19 disinformation and endangering lives.
“People are dying for people lying,” Taylor said. “It’s all of Americans’ job to get vaccinated to protect other Americans.”
City of Winchester voters Susan Cote and Peter Trent, who cast ballots at the City of Winchester Voter Registrar’s Office on East Lane, voted for Republicans candidates.
“We vote for the American candidates,” Trent said. “People who want to keep America the way it was designed in the Constitution and not turn the country into a communist dictatorship.”
Trent said he wants fiscal responsibility, job growth and limitations preventing late-term abortions. He also opposes vaccine mandates and adding gun control measures.
Cote said the issues that matter to her are keeping Virginia a "right to work" state and “school choice.” Trent agreed, saying that he would like vouchers to be given to parents who choose not to send their children to public school so that they could instead send their children elsewhere.
“The public monies that are used to finance the public schools should be made available to the parents to pay tuition to private schools,” Trent said.
Deetzie Bayliss of Frederick County, who is running as a Democratic candidate for the 29th District seat in the House of Delegates, voted early Friday and put up campaign signs near the entrance of the County Administration Building. She said early voting is “convenient” and that it “gives everyone the opportunity to engage.”
Bayliss said she feels good about her campaign, saying she has made many connections and has “great hope in the voters.” However, she fears that if Republicans retake the state government, voting restriction laws will be put in place.
“There are so many issues that are important,” Bayliss said. “Climate change is important. We have to make sure that the Virginia Clean Economy Act is not rescinded if Republicans take control. There’s so many issues — a woman’s right to choose, minimum wage. We want to make sure that people can work 40 hours a week and have decent health insurance and be able to put food on the table, you know, and a decent place to live. Those are important issues that are before us right now.”
Bayliss’s Republican opponent, incumbent Del. Bill Wiley of Winchester, on Friday said he’s confident about his chances in November, considering he won a special election last November.
He added that the upcoming election is a “great opportunity” to win back a Republican majority in the Virginia General Assembly’s House of Delegates. He said the party’s main focus in Richmond has been to get back to normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic and keep businesses and schools open as much as possible.
“There’s a lot of good momentum right now in the state, very excited for that. We look forward to winning here in November,” he said.
Wiley added that he thinks it’s great that early in-person voting started Friday in Virginia, particularly because people sometimes forget to vote on Election Day.
“Voting is very important,” Wiley said.
According to the local voter registrars, 72 people voted in Winchester on Friday, 43 in Clarke County and 136 in Frederick County.
Winchester Star reporter Anna Merod contributed information to this article.