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Virginia election officials are ready for (almost) anything

McArthur Myers fills out his ballot at an early voting location in Alexandria, Va., Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.
Andrew Harnik
McArthur Myers fills out his ballot at an early voting location in Alexandria, Va., Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.

Virginia’s 2023 election may not have a statewide office on the ballot, but there are 140 legislative seats, and plenty of local elections. That's creating lengthy ballots, and with the longest early voting window in the country, a lot of votes to be tabulated Tuesday night.

But election officials are optimistic things should go well, at least the things they can control.

“A car hit a transformer that caught on fire and the whole building lost power,” Henrico County Registrar Mark Coakley told Radio IQ calmly Thursday morning.

Coakley said the Henrico east end early voting location had to close for about 25 minutes, but things were up and running before too long. But even he was confident things should go well come Election Day.

“Things are going really well, we’re wrapping it up with the last day of in person voting Saturday,” Coakley said.

And while surprises might happen Tuesday when most Virginians go to vote, election officials are confident incidences like car crashes or power outages won’t create lengthy problems.

“Maybe the outlet at a building goes out. But the things that are in our control, we make sure we’ve done all that we can to be ready,” said York County registrar Walt Latham.

Latham said the number of local elections this year in his locality is bound to drag reporting times down. But he joked election officials sweat the small stuff ahead of election day to make sure things will go safely and securely.

Among foreseeable issues the registrars are aware of is a likely delay in election results. Thanks to 45 days of early voting, gone are the days when Virginians knew the results of their elections by 8PM.

Latham even sent out a message to his local candidates, political parties and the public last week warning of some possibly late-night results.

“It’s always better to set expectations rather than surprise people or explain after the fact,” he said.

Keith Balmer, Richmond’s General Registrar, said the thousands of early, in-person and mailed-in ballots can cause delays.

“It just takes our machines longer to cook up that data to produce the results tape,” he said.

Still, recent law changes allow the counting of those early votes to start earlier. Balmer predicts Richmond’s results, including the future of a casino in the city, should be done by 10PM.

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

Corrected: November 6, 2023 at 1:33 PM EST
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Richmond officials expected to complete counting by 8:30 pm.
Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.