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Early votes in Virginia aren't counted early, but they are processed

A placard that says "Vote Here" stands next to a street. Summertime foliage is in the background.
Jahd Khalil
Radio IQ

Early votes are not counted early. But, they are processed early.

None of Virginia's votes are counted until after the polls close at 7pm on election night. But even though they haven't been tallied, they will have been processed. All the envelopes will have been opened, all the signatures checked and the only thing really left to do at that point is hit the button to count the votes.

Senator Creigh Deeds says a recent change to the law actually requires pre-processing, which he says used to be spotty.

"It was at the registrar's discretion," he explains. "And so you had early processing in many localities. But then in some localities like the city of Richmond and some of the northern Virginia localities you didn't have early processing and that resulted in a very late count."

Alex Keena at Virginia Commonwealth University says many people assume early voting helps Democrats, but he says there's no evidence to show that's true.

"I think a lot of Republicans actually believe that if you can suppress the vote or you can prevent a large group of the public from voting then that might actually help their party, but there really isn't a lot of evidence to support that claim,” Keena says.

Case in point: the 2021 election, which saw massive early voting and record turnout. Republicans swept all three statewide offices.

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.