RICHMOND—Virginia’s deadline to register to vote this fall is Tuesday and organizations and government officials continue to remind people to sign up and join what is already a large turnout.
Gov. Ralph Northam encouraged residents to register to vote before the deadline, and said in a statement Friday that it has never been easier to vote. The statement coincides with Virginia’s annual High School Student Voter Registration Week.
This year over 1 million absentee ballots have been requested, Andrea Gaines, director of community relations at the Virginia Department of Elections, wrote in an email. Around 370,000 absentee ballots had been returned as of Thursday, Gaines said.
Early, in-person voting has also yielded a large turnout. More than 420,000 people had voted in-person as of Thursday.
“It is the largest turnout we have seen at this time of year in Virginia,” Gaines said.
This is the first year there has been no-excuse absentee voting and a 45-day early voting period. The General Assembly recently passed a host of voting reform bills to allow for these changes.
Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond is spreading the message to vote through VCU Votes, a class that coordinates voter engagement events and educates students and faculty members about voting.
“Our messages emphasize that registering to vote is easy,” Nicole O’Donnell, an assistant professor in public relations who teaches the class, said in an email. “It should take less than five minutes of your time.”
Nationwide initiatives such as National Voter Registration Day, which was Sept. 22, broke new ground. An estimated 1.5 million people registered to vote nationally during the event this year, the largest number of registrations since the campaign started in 2012, according to the organization’s website. Celebrities got involved to help the cause trend on Twitter with #NationalVoterRegistrationDay.
A record number of over 5.8 million Virginians have registered to vote as of Aug. 31, when looking at records that go back to 1976. Over 5.5 million voters were registered in the 2016 presidential election year, and turnout that year hit 72 percent.
Individuals can register to vote through the state elections website or by mailing in a registration form, which must be postmarked by Oct. 13.
Other upcoming deadlines include Oct. 23 to request an absentee ballot by mail, or Oct. 31 to request an absentee ballot in person. All absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by noon on the third day after the election.