Informing Democracy – a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization made up of election professionals, researchers, and lawyers – today released a new report outlining the timeline of how votes are counted and elections are certified in Virginia ahead of the special election in the Fourth Congressional District on February 21.
The new report also identifies several individuals within VA-04’s fifteen counties that are responsible for counting and certifying election results who available evidence indicates have previously attempted to spread disinformation or undermine the democratic process. These individual include people like Dinwiddie County Electoral Board Chair Carolyn Worssam, who amplified misinformation on social media, and Brunswick County Electoral Board Chair Kerry Phelps, who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6.
Below we’ve detailed these dates and process points:
- Election Day — February 21: Polls are open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. This is also the drop off or postmarked by deadline for vote-by-mail ballots. After polls close, Officers of Election tally the vote at their precinct, displaying and printing totals on all optical scanners and hand counting any ballots that are not readable by these machines.
- Early in-person voting — January 7 to February 18: Voters are provided with the same paper ballot they would receive on Election Day. After marking the ballot, the voter inserts it into an optical scanner located at the registrar’s office or other early voting location. No vote total can be displayed or printed from these machines, however, until after polls have closed on Election Day.
- Vote-by-mail Ballots:
- Pre-processing of vote-by-mail ballots — February 14 : The pre-processing of vote-by-mail ballots in all jurisdictions within VA-04 began on or before this day. Pre-processing can start anytime during the early voting period after the Registrar confirms the affirmation on the ballot was correctly completed. No vote total can be displayed or printed until after polls have closed on Election Day.
- Deadline to cure issues with vote-by-mail affirmation — February 24 at noon ET
- Deadline for receiving vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by Election Day — February 24 at noon ET
- Local Canvass — February 22: The Local Election Boards must meet to review all materials received from the Officers of Election to ensure the accuracy of vote totals and proper completion of all necessary paperwork (the local canvass) before certifying the results. This meeting must start by 5 p.m., though often it starts first thing in the morning.
- Provisional Ballot Review — February 22 to 24: The provisional ballot meeting is convened on February 22, then typically adjourned and reconvened after the Registrar completes their research on the eligibility of these voters. The timing of this meeting and how long it lasts depends on how many provisional ballots were voted in the election. It is often held on the Friday afternoon after Election Day.
- Certification — February 25 to 28: Local electoral boards will certify and send the results of this canvass to the state board during this window.
- State Canvass — February 28: The State Board of Elections will meet, on or before this date to certify this special election once all cities and counties within VA-4 have certified and delivered their materials to the State Board.
- Recount Process Begins — 10 Days After State Certification: If the margin is less than or equal to 1% then the losing candidate may petition for a recount. The county or city will pay costs if the margin is less than .5%, or if the recount reverses the results.
Unofficial results will be reported by the Virginia Department of Elections here. You can read the full report here and subscribe to our Substack here.
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About Informing Democracy:
Informing Democracy is a new non-profit organization made up of election professionals, researchers, and lawyers who are dedicated to solving this problem by providing research and information about everything that happens in election administration after votes are cast.