Who Conducts the Elections in Virginia?
- Local Electoral Boards
- Officers of Election
- General Registrars
- Virginia State Board of Elections
- Virginia Department of Elections (ELECT)
Local Electoral Boards
Every city and county has a three-member Electoral Board. The following is a list of the main duties of your Electoral Board:
- Appoints the General Registrar for your locality.
- Appoints the Officers of Election for your locality.
- Trains the Officers of Election.
- Removes a General Registrar or Officer of Election who fails to discharge his or her duties.
Performs other duties assigned to it, including:
- Purchases and maintains the voting equipment used in your city or county.
- Prepares your ballots.
- Administers the absentee ballot process.
- Conducts the election.
- Certifies of the results of the election.
Officers of Election, also known as “Poll Workers”
There are Officers of Election in every polling place on Election Day. They have two primary jobs – to help you vote and to make sure all votes are properly counted. Their specific duties include:
- Preparing the polling place for Election Day, including opening the voting machines and making sure they work properly
- Opening the polls to voters
- Checking voter identification to ensure voters are eligible to vote
- Giving demonstrations of the voting equipment
- Offering assistance to any voter who requests it
- Directing voters to the voting machines
- Making sure each voter’s ballot is properly counted
- Maintaining order in the polling place
- Closing the polling place when the election is over
- Obtaining the count of votes from the voting equipment and reporting the results to the Electoral Board
Other information about Officers of Election:
- As much as possible, political party representation should be equal at each polling place.
- One officer is designated the Chief Officer and another the Assistant Chief for each polling place.
- Officers of Election are paid both for attending required training before the election and for working on Election Day. The amount of payment varies from locality to locality.
General Registrar of Voters
Your General registrar is primarily responsible for registering voters and maintaining current voter registration records. Specifically his or her duties include:
- Establishing and maintaining public places for voter registration.
- Participating in programs to educate the general public concerning registration and encouraging registration by the general public.
- Providing the appropriate forms for citizens to register and to obtain the information necessary to complete the applications.
- Accepting a registration application or request for transfer or change of address submitted by or for a resident of any other county or city in Virginia. Registrars process registration applications and requests for transfer or changes of address from residents of other counties and cities and forward the completed application or request to the registrar where the voter lives.
- Maintaining the registration records for his or her county or city in the central registration system; preserving the written applications of all persons who are registered; and preserving for a period of four years the written applications of all persons who are denied registration or whose registration is cancelled.
- Promptly notifying in writing any a person who is denied registration the reason for denial.
- Notifying by mail each affected voter of changes affecting his or her district or polling place.
- Provide to a resident of any county or city in Virginia, free of charge, the opportunity to apply for a Virginia Voter Photo Identification Card.
- Carrying out any other duties as directed by his or her Electoral Board.
A Registrar can also:
- Go into a county or city adjoining to his or her locality to register voters of his or her locality when conducting registration jointly with the registrar of the adjoining county or city.
- Provide staff for voter registration offices that are located at facilities of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
A General Registrar cannot:
- Use any political bias when registering voters, sending absentee ballots or performing any other requirement of the job, but must perform all his or her duties in a politically neutral manner.
More information about your General Registrar:
- The General Registrar is appointed by your Electoral Board to a four-year term.
- He or she can’t be removed, or not reappointed, because the party with a majority on the electoral board changes.
- His or her salary is determined by the population of your city or county.
About Elections in General
There are three types of elections in which you may vote:
Primary – One of the methods by which a political party may nominate its candidate.
- Held in February or March of presidential election years to nominate candidates for president.
- Held in March for city governing bodies where permitted by charter, but held at the same time as the presidential primary in presidential election years.
- Held in June for all other offices regularly scheduled to be elected in November.
- A primary may not be called for a special election to fill a vacancy unless the primary is to be held on the regular date set for primaries.
- Virginia law allows you to vote in only one political party primary election when multiple political party primary elections are held on the same day. Each primary has a separate ballot listing different candidates. The voter must indicate which ballot he would like to receive.
- Held in May for some city and town governing bodies and school boards.
- Held in November for all other elected offices.
- Called by the Governor for a vacancy in:
- the U. S. Senate, or
- the U. S. House of Representatives
- Called by Governor, President Pro Tempore of the Senate or Speaker of the House, as appropriate, for a vacancy in the General Assembly; and
- Called by the Court of jurisdiction for any local office vacancy or local referendum.
When do elections occur?
Who pays for elections?
Your city or county pays for the costs of elections.
How do I register to vote in an election?
About ballots in general:
The political party affiliation of candidates for statewide, federal and General Assembly offices in a general or special election are listed on the ballot. The following abbreviations are used:
- (D) for the Democratic Party
- (R) for the Republican Party
- (I) for an Independent (non-party) candidate
Exception – Presidential ballots contain the actual party name followed by “Electors for” and the name of the party’s candidates for president and vice president.
- These ballots also are used by most voters who vote absentee by mail in counties, cities and towns using mechanical voting equipment at the polling place. The locality may choose a different form of ballot, such as a marksense ballot, to use for mailed absentee ballots.
Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) Voting Equipment Ballots
- This voting equipment counts and records votes on a removable memory cartridge as well as in an internal memory system.
- If more than one machine is used in the precinct, at the close of the election, an officer of election uses a device to capture and consolidate the data from all the voting machines.
- These paper ballots are read and counted by an optical scan reading device that is programmed for each election type.
What kind of voting equipment might be used?
How do I know my voting equipment is accurate?
Under the Code of Virginia, the State Board of Elections must approve any mechanical or electronic voting system or equipment before it can be used by any locality.
Each system must successfully complete three distinct levels of testing:
- Qualification testing (testing of hardware and software that may be conducted by Independent Testing Authority)
- Certification testing (to ensure it meets all applicable requirements of the Code of Virginia)
- Acceptance testing (conducted by the locality to assure it meets their needs and is identical to the certified system).
What happens at the polls on Election Day?
Officers of Election are there to assist voters and to assure that policies and procedures concerning the conduct of elections are followed.
Before the polls open they:
- Welcome authorized representatives.
- Take the Oath of Office administered by the Chief Officers.
- Set up polling place.
- Organize supplies, forms, and materials.
- Confirm that paper pollbooks, if used, are separated into the same alphabetical divisions.
- Confirm that there is one Pollbook Count form with correct identifying information for each alphabetical division of the pollbook, if paper pollbooks are used.
- Set up electronic pollbooks, if used.
- Set up or post the appropriate signs inside and outside the polling place.
- Confirm that voter count is zero (0) on both voting equipment and pollbooks when polls are opened.
- Announce polls open at 6:00 a.m.
While the polls are open they:
- Maintain Order.
- Offer Voting Equipment Demonstration.
- Provide instruction to voter in booth, if requested, but leave booth before voter votes.
- Provide assistance, if requested by voter.
- Voter and assistant must sign a Request For Assistance before help can be provided (Exceptions – Neither blind voter nor his assistant may sign the Request for Assistance. Officer prints required information).
- Mark off next pollbook count number, if paper pollbooks are used.
- Enter the pollbook count number for each voter, if paper pollbooks are used.
- Direct voter to voting machine or voting booth, as appropriate.
- Take entry slip from voter.
- Activate voting machine, if used.
- After voter leaves, remove any campaign material left by voter.
Before the polls close they:
- At 6:45 p.m. announce that polls will close in 15 minutes.
After the polls close they:
- At 7:00 p.m. announce that Polls Are Closed.
- Starting from the end of the line, make list of names of those in line to assure they will be permitted to vote if line continues after 7:00 p.m. closing of polls
- Welcome authorized representatives and check written authorization.
- After last voter has voted and left, enter “Polls Closed, (Actual) Time ” on last page of each pollbook, if paper pollbooks are used.
- Close polls of electronic pollbooks, if used.
- Close polls on voting equipment.
- Remove provisional ballots from ballot container, place in sealed envelope and sign certification.
- Obtain results from machine and complete and sign two copies of the Statements of Results.
- Complete two copies of the Write-Ins Certification, if any.
- Call in unofficial results to Electoral Board or their representative.
- Announce unofficial results outside polls if media or others waiting.
- Close and seal voting machines.
- Pack and seal all envelopes.
- Sign all forms and labels are prescribed by Electoral Board.
- Remove signs and discard those that are non-reusable.
- Pack election materials in supply containers.
- Leave polling place as clean and organized as possible.
How are the election results made official?
Until the official counting and certification of the ballots is complete, all election results are considered “unofficial”. A process known as the “canvass” must be completed before the results become official. The canvass procedure is described below.
Each Electoral Board must meet to ascertain the results of all elections held in its county or city and certify the results.
When and where the Electoral Board meets:
- No later than 5:00 p.m. on the day after the election.
- At the office of the Clerk of Court. The Board may adjourn to the principal office of the General Registrar. The Clerk so advises interested citizens who inquire where meeting is being conducted.
- All Board Members should be present. Two members constitute a quorum in the event one member is unable to attend due to an emergency.
- Only those members of the Board present during the entire canvass may legally sign any document concerning it.
Who may be present at the Electoral Board canvass:
- The General Registrar and other staff needed to assist the Board may attend, as may representatives of the Clerk of Court’s office, if needed.
- Any qualified voter and any media representative is also permitted to attend. These persons may observe but may not interrupt the meeting.