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Election Terms


Absentee Ballot (AB) - A ballot cast by a voter in a manner other than in-person on Election Day. Voters can cast their vote in person or by mail with an Absentee Ballot, and return their marked ballot by mail or in person to the Electoral Board by 7 PM on Election Day for counting at Central Absentee Precinct (CAP). 

Absentee Voter - A voter who uses an absentee ballot to vote.

Address Confirmation - A document mailed to a voter when their address is in question or when their address in the United States Post Office database is different from the address in the statewide voter database. A document mailed to a voter in an attempt to update their voter record between elections.

Affirmation of Eligibility - The form used by voters and Officers of Election to document and qualify voters at the polls.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1996 (ADA) - The ADA set standards for ensuring that Americans with disabilities have equal access to public services and facilities. A provision of the ADA requires that persons with disabilities have equal access to the polling place.

Permanent Absentee Ballot Application - Absentee ballot application that allows voters to request that all ballots for which they are eligible to vote be mailed to them.

Assistance - Help provided to a voter, either information or physically helping an individual to mark their ballot. Special procedures may be required, depending on when and what type of assistance is requested.

Assistant Chief (AC) - The Officer of Election that assists the Chief in qualifying voters, documenting procedures, and preparing election records and returns at the end of the day.

Authorization to Reproduce Ballots - The request form used by the Chief if they have an emergency need to make copies of a blank ballot for use in the polling place because of a shortage of ballots on Election Day and the Electoral Board cannot furnish additional ballots to keep voters voting.

Authorized Representatives - Those individuals authorized to be in a polling place and representing a party or candidate.


Ballot - The paper record a voter uses to choose among candidates, initiatives, or referenda. In Virginia, all voters vote on a paper ballot that is digitally scanned and counted by a machine that has been tested to ensure accuracy.

Ballot Style - The unique combination of offices, candidates and issues for a specific precinct (not all precincts have the same state and/or county districts).

Blank Vote - A ballot on which a voter has not filled in any ovals. The Optical Scanner allows this ballot because Virginia Election Law does not require voting for any office or issue on a ballot.

Booth Officer - The Officer of Election responsible for maintaining voting booth cleanliness and assisting voters at the booth. 


Canvass - The process by which the Electoral Board certifies the results for each precinct based on the paperwork completed by the Chief. The Canvass takes place on the Wednesday after the election and includes a review and determination of any provisional ballots cast at the polling place.

Central Absentee Precinct (CAP) - Often referred to as CAP. Located at the Voter Registration and Elections Office and manned by a Chief, Assistant Chief and counting teams that process all absentee ballots.

Chief - The leader of the Officers of Election at the precinct polling place on Election Day. The Chief is appointed by the Electoral Board and is responsible for correctly running the election, qualifying voters, documenting procedures, preparing election records and returns at the end of the day.

Curbside Voter - A voter who cannot enter a polling place and receives assistance from election officers with voting and casting a ballot outside of the polling place. See also Outside Polls Voter.


Documentation - Record of actions taken by Officers of Election at the polling place on Election Day including setting up and testing the voting equipment, checking-in voters, assistance given to individual voters, issuing ballots and counting voted ballots.

DOJ - The United States Department of Justice

Dual Primary Election - Both political parties conducting a primary on the same day to determine which candidates will represent the parties on the ballot at the November General Election. In Virginia, these elections are open to any registered voter because voter registration is not party based. The only restriction is when there is a Dual Primary, voters must choose which party primary to vote in and cannot vote in both.


ELECT – Virginia Department of Elections

Election Day Guide (EDG) - The procedures and practices that govern polling place operation and administration on Election Day. The Election Day Guide prepared by ELECT and is supplemented by the “What If” document specific to voter check in issues.

Election Page - High school student that is not eligible to register to vote and sign up to be an Officer of Election, but wishes to work in the polling place.

Election Results - The tally of votes for each candidate and measure on the ballot collected at each precinct and compiled at the jurisdiction, then the state level, to declare who will hold each contested office and which measures pass.

Electioneering - The act of promoting a particular candidate or issue in order to influence voters.

Electoral Board (EB) - This is a three member panel that is appointed by local judges to administer elections. 

Electronic Pollbook (EPB) - The device used to qualify voters and check them into the polls before the voter is issued a ballot. The EPB contains voter registration information for all of the voters in the county or city.

Emergency Ballot Box - The side compartment of the Optical Scanner bin, or any other lockable container to collect ballots that are not passed through the Optical Scanner reader, is referred to as the Emergency Ballot Box. Also used to collect and safeguard Provisional Ballots until after the polls are closed.

Equal Treatment - All persons who present themselves at the polling place to vote must meet the same qualifying criteria. These criteria are established by federal and state laws and regulations. 


FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions - a document in question and answer format that addresses the frequently raised issues; a summary of a more complex explanation.

Federal Elections - General or Primary Elections involving federal offices: President, Senators, or Members of the U.S. House of Representatives. General Elections for federal offices occur once every two years. Members of the House of Representatives must run every two years; Senators every six years; and the Presidential General and Primary Elections occur every four years. If a vacancy occurs between regularly scheduled elections, there may be a Special Election. 

Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) - Application used by military, their dependants, and citizens residing overseas. This application may serve as a voter registration application and/or an absentee ballot application. There are very strict guidelines for using this application.

Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) - Application used by military, their dependants, and citizens residing overseas. This application may serve as a voter registration application and/or an absentee ballot application and/or an emergency ballot. This is the most restricted application of all.

Final AB List - The list provided to the Chief that indicates the status of Absentee Voters. This printout from the statewide database is used by the Chief to determine the proper procedure to follow if an Absentee Voter comes to the polling place on Election Day.


General Election - An election, other than a primary election, that regularly recurs at fixed dates every year to elect Federal, State, or Local officials.

General Registrar (GR) and Director of Elections - The individual appointed by the Electoral Board to conduct voter registration and assist in administering elections within a county or city.

Grace Period - The time specified in law during which a voter may return to their old polling place to vote after they move and fail to update their voter registration information.

Greeter - The Officer of Election that is available to assist voters entering the polling place and identifying Outside Polls Voters. 


Hand Counted Ballots - Ballots that are not accepted by the Optical Scanner must be hand counted by the Officers of Election and added to the Results Tape totals on the Statement of Results.

Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) - A federal law enacted in 2002 that required a number of changes in the way elections are conducted at the local level. It required and provided funding for the placement of new voting systems in each polling place that are accessible to voters with a disability. It creates a provisional ballot procedure for voters whose eligibility to vote is in question. It requires that first time voters registering by mail provide some form of identification when registering to vote for the first time. And finally, by January 1, 2006, it required the states to create a new statewide computerized voter registration system.


ID - Voter Identification Incident Report - The form used by the Chief to document unusual occurrences in the polling place.


Local Elections - Elections in which only local issues or offices are on the ballot including members of the Board of Supervisors and School Board, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Sheriff, Clerk of Court, Commissioner of Revenue, Treasurer, and Soil & Water.

Locality - The geographical unit of government that is a city or county. 

Local Voter Registration Office (LVRO) - Refers to a General Registrar’s office, of which there are 133 in Virginia.

Logic and Accuracy Testing (L&A Testing) - The testing that all vote counting equipment undergoes to ensure proper operation and vote counting prior to being used at the polling place. The testing is performed by trained technicians, observed by an Electoral Board member and is open to observation by political party and independent candidate representatives. After testing is completed, each machine is sealed to ensure it is not tampered with until it is unsealed and used either for early voting or on Election Day.


Machine Officer - The Officer of Election that assists voters in placing their marked ballots into the Optical Scanner.

Machine Worksheet - The document used by technicians to document L&A testing and sealing of voting equipment. The original is secured and a copy is provided to the polling place so that the Machine Officer can verify the integrity of the chain-of-custody.


National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 - Federal law that requires voter registration be easy and ensure that the registration process does not create unnecessary barriers to the voting process. Voter registration may take place at agencies providing public assistance, like the Department of Motor Vehicles where people can get their drivers’ license and register to vote at the same place, and agencies offering services to the disabled. NVRA also requires the Secretary of State to provide regular updates to the Federal Election Commission detailing the sources of voter registration.

Notice to Provisional Voter - The pre-printed notice given to every voter that votes a provisional ballot, for all other reasons except no identification, that explains why the provisional ballot was necessary. It advises the voter that they have the right to attend the Electoral Board meeting during which the eligibility of the voter’s ballot will be determined. The place and time of that meeting is included. 

Notice to Provisional Voter (NO ID) - The pre-printed notice given to every voter that votes a provisional ballot, ONLY due to lack of identification, that explains why the provisional ballot was necessary. It advises the voter that they have the right to attend the Electoral Board meeting during which the eligibility of the voter’s ballot will be determined. The place and time of that meeting is included. 


Officer of Election - Paid individuals that serve their community by assisting in the operation of polling places on Election Day. Their responsibilities include setting up the polling place, qualifying voters, issuing ballots, keeping voting equipment operating, providing assistance to voters, and closing the polls.

Officer of Election Oath - The election specific oath required at the start of each election that is required to be signed by all officers prior to start of work in a polling place. 

Optical/Digital Scanner (OS) - Consists of a large black bin in which the ballots are collected and an electronic reader that scans the ovals filled in on a ballot by a voter. Also includes a Scanner Memory Card (recording and storage of results) and Scanner Seal (tamper-evident wire seal protecting the Scanner Memory Card).

Outside Polls Voter (OP) - The voter who, due to age (65 or older) or disability, needs to vote in their car. These voters are sometimes referred to as Curbside Voters.

Overvote - An office, or issue on a ballot, with more than the allowed number of ovals filled in by the voter. The Optical Scanner will initially reject this ballot because Virginia Election Law limits the number of candidates or answers allowed for each office or issue. The voter is given the option to Spoil the ballot and vote a new one or request an override. If override is requested, the Optical Scanner will read all offices and issues except the overvoted one. The result is similar to an Undervote if limited to a single office or issue, or a Blank Vote if all offices and issues contain Overvotes.


Pollbook Officer - The Officer of Election that matches the information in the pollbook to a person’s ID and statement of Full Legal Name and Current Residence Address to qualify a person to vote on Election Day.

Polling Place - Site where voting takes place. There is one in each precinct.

Poll Worker - See Officer of Election

Precinct - The basic unit of county elections. Each county election precinct contains a polling place. It is the geographical division that you live in that determines where you vote and what offices you vote for. 

Primary Election - Party election conducted by state and local election officials to determine which candidates will represent the party on the ballot at the November General Election. In Virginia, these elections are open to any registered voter because voter registration is not party based. The only restriction is when there is a Dual Primary (both parties conducting an election on the same day) in which case voters must choose which party primary to vote in (cannot vote in both). 

Printed Return Sheet - The formal document with an Optical Scanner Results Tape attached. This document is required to be signed by all Officers of Election after the polls are closed.

Privacy Sleeve - Folder used by the voter, if desired, to cover their ballot and maintain privacy while they are transporting it from the Voting Booth to the Optical Scanner.

Prohibited Area - The polling place room and approach out to 40 feet from any building entrance within which certain activities are not allowed.

Provisional Ballot - A ballot that is provided to a voter when a check in and qualification issue cannot be immediately resolved. This ballot is sealed in a green envelope and turned over to the Electoral Board for research and a determination as to whether or not the vote should be counted. There are two different types of Provisional Ballot - one for failure to produce a valid ID and one for other provisional voting reasons such as the voter’s name not being found in the poll book or an indication that the voter has already voted.

Provisional Ballot Envelope - The green envelope in which a Provisional Ballot is sealed until it is reviewed by the Electoral Board. There are two different types of Provisional Ballot Envelopes - one for failure to produce a valid ID and one for other provisional voting reasons .


Qualification - A requirement, such as being a registered voter, that is necessary in order for a voter, candidate, or election process to be acceptable for a specific purpose.


Registered Voter - Means a person registered to vote in this state whose registration is effective.

Request for Assistance Form - A voter uses this form to request that another individual assist them in the marking of their ballot.

Request to Cancel Voter Registration - The formal document that an individual may complete and submit to cancel the Virginia voter registration and be removed from future pollbooks.

Results Tapes - The tapes generated by the Optical Scanner after the polls are closed and all ballots are cast. These tapes show the number of votes cast on that particular voting machine for each candidate and issue on the ballot. 


Sample Ballot - A poster or flyer with all the offices, candidates and issues presented just as they are on the official ballot. The Official Sample Ballot will always say “official” on it  and is displayed at the polling place and copies are available for voters. Political parties and candidates often produce sample ballots with the names of candidates they want elected marked. These are legal advertisements, and the only restriction is that they cannot be on white paper. But these are not official sample ballots produced by the General Registrar and Electoral Board.

Security - In the polling place all voting equipment, ballots, and Election Records must be stored in such a way that they cannot be tampered with; all actions taken by poll workers, poll watchers and others at the polling place must be in public view and must be documented.

Special Elections - Federal, state or local elections that do not fall within the regular election calendar. These are usually held when an officeholder resigns or otherwise vacates an office.

Spoiled Ballot - When a voter makes an error while marking their ballot, they may request a replacement. The first ballot is called a Spoiled Ballot and is not counted. Spoiled ballots are documented .

State Board of Elections (SBE) - The five-member board appointed by the Governor that regulates and coordinates the actions of Electoral Boards and General Registrars.

State Elections - Contests for statewide office, e.g., Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Member State Senate, Member House of Delegates and statewide initiatives, referenda or state constitutional changes.

Statement of Results (SOR) - The SOR is completed by the Chief after the polls close and attested to by the Officers of Election, and documents the use of ballots, machine counts, pollbook counts and candidate and issue votes cast. 


Tabulate - Process of totaling votes. 

Tabulating Equipment - The hardware, software, or supplies used to count votes. 

Tally - Process of totaling votes. 

Tally Sheet - The paper form or electronic record used to collect data in the process of counting votes.


Undervote - The result of a voter not filling in a bubble for a candidate or issue. The Optical Scanner will allow this condition because Virginia Election Law does not require a voter to vote for all offices and issues on a ballot. 

Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) – Refers to Military, Overseas and Federal voters.


Virginia Electoral Board Association (VEBA) – A voluntary association of members from the 133 independent Electoral Boards across the Commonwealth.

Virginia Election and Registration Information System (VERIS) - The secure and centralized database of all Virginia registered voters.

Virginia Voter Registration Application (Voter Reg App) - The form used by voters to register to vote or update their voter registration information. 

VITA – Virginia Information Technologies Agency

Void Ballot - A ballot that was issued to a checked-in voter that will not be placed into the Optical Scanner because it was removed from the polling place, left in a voting booth or otherwise left behind by a voter that left the polling place. A Void Ballot requires special handling and documentation. 

Voter Qualification - The process by which it is determined that a voter is eligible to vote in a specific polling place.

Voting Booth - The free-standing table structure with privacy wings provided for voters to use as a platform for marking ballots.

Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) - Congress passed this landmark legislation to guarantee the right to vote for all eligible citizens. The VRA outlawed poll taxes and literacy tests, required that certain jurisdictions with a history of enacting laws to prevent minorities from voting have their election bills “pre-cleared” by the U.S. Department of Justice, and established a requirement for some jurisdictions to provide ballots and assistance in languages in addition to English where a large proportion of voters are not native English speakers.

Voting System Security Plan (VSSP) - The written document that specifies the security required for voting systems and chain-of-custody within the Voter Registration and Elections Office.

Voter Registrars Association of Virginia (VRAV) – The professional association for members of Virginia’s General Registrars community.

VRO – Voter Registration Office (refers to a General Registrar’s office, of which there are 133 in Virginia)


What If - The document produced by the State Board of Elections that provides guidance for Officers of Election on qualifying voters and solving voter qualification issues on Election Day.

Write-In - The voter fills in a bubble to the left of a blank line on a ballot and writes in the name of a person of their choice that is not already on the ballot. This option is not available in Primary Elections.

Write-In Certification - After the polls close, the ballots that were separated out by the Optical Scanner as containing Write Ins are read. Names of write-in votes are then recorded on two duplicate Write-In forms.


Zero Tape - First printout upon starting an Optical Scan unit. Lists all races, candidates, and issues with results equal to zero indicating the machine is set to begin voting.