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A look at how early votes will be counted in Virginia this year

FILE - A voter submits their ballot at an early voting location in Alexandria, Va., Sept. 26, 2022.
Andrew Harnik
FILE - A voter submits their ballot at an early voting location in Alexandria, Va., Sept. 26, 2022.

Early vote counts will work a bit differently this year.

The idea of the election night mirage created worry in Virginia among Democrats and Republicans, who grew increasingly concerned as election results were coming in but the early votes had yet to be counted.

Republican Senator David Suetterlein of Roanoke County says election results were tabulated in a way that presented election watchers with what he calls a murky central absentee pool.

"They would see what looked like one election result was certain, and there was hardly any vote left to count because it would just say one precinct left in this county," Suetterlein explains. "And what they did not know was that one precinct actually had over half the votes, and it was a large murky central absentee pool."

He introduced a bill that's now law – requiring votes to be counted at the precinct level.

Retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson worked with the National Task Force on Election Crises, and he says the strength of election returns happens at your local precinct.

"We are still a nation that even in a national election depends ultimately fundamentally on those precinct workers at the local level," Wilkerson says.

Not only will those election results be tabulated in the home precinct for every voter, those early votes are also expected to be the first to be tabulated and the first reported. That means the election night mirage this year might end up being from late reporting precincts of people who waited until Election Day to cast a ballot.

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.