When Should Polls Close on Election Day?

Feb 7, 2020

Credit AP Photo / Alex Brandon

Democrats are taking up a number of initiatives to make voting easier, and one of those may be extending polling hours.

Democrats are moving forward with no-excuse absentee voting and ditching the requirement that voters have a photo ID, and even legislation making Election Day a state holiday. They’re also considering an effort to extend how late the polls are open, closing at 8 pm instead of 7 pm.

Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg is a Democrat from Henrico County, and he says he supports it because lawmakers should consider how this could help voters participate.   

“The person who has to work 12 hours a day on Election Day, the person who is grinding out a living with their children," he says. "And then they’re expected to drive like a bat out of hell to try to get to their polling location after they’ve worked 12 hours, they’ve fed three kids and got them to school.”

Republican Delegate Chris Runion of Rockingham County says extending voting hours to 8 pm will lead to very long days and nights for people who work elections.  

“In speaking to my registrars back home, they are significantly concerned with the burden it will put on our volunteers as well, our poll workers as well," Runion explains. "The additional hour really means they’ll be getting home two or three hours later than what they normally do.”

Now, the bill would not actually go into effect until next year. That would allow lawmakers a chance to change their minds if they find that no-excuse absentee voting means that longer in-person hours on Election Day aren’t necessary.

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