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How much early voting is too much?

A placard that says "Vote Here" stands next to a street
Jahd Khalil
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Radio IQ

Polls are open Friday for the November election. But, there’s still a debate about how much early voting is enough.

Virginia has 45 days of early voting. That's one of the longest periods in the country for casting a ballot before Election Day. But not everyone thinks it's a good idea – even some people who take advantage of it.

"Last year, when I was running, I wanted to get my vote done and out of the way so that I could focus on engaging with the voters," says Republican Delegate Phillip Scott of Spotsylvania County. He says he's hearing from election officials in his district that the requirement for 45 days is an unfunded mandate that drains staff resources and money from a system that's already overstretched.

"I chose to do it, and I would be equally able to do it within two weeks. I think the convenience of two weeks versus 45 days is very minimal. You're still allowing a great window of opportunity for folks to actually go and cast their ballot with two weeks."

He says a compromise would be to shorten the window to two weeks and extend the hours beyond the work day. But Delegate Schuyler Van Valkenburg, a Democrat from Henrico County, says the priority should be on voters, not the bottom line.

"We have thousands upon thousands of people who use the first two weeks of that 45 days, and those people matter too. Their votes matter too," Van Valkenburg explains. "And so, if it was dozens of people showing up on the first day, I would be excited. I mean, as a civics teacher, I think anybody voting is great."

In-person absentee voting will extend all the way through the weekend before Election Day.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.