A Student’s Guide to Virginia Voting


By Gemma Carretta, Staff Writer

Virginia’s next gubernatorial election is coming up on Nov. 7, 2017, but many Mason students are still unprepared to vote. Because the state’s election does not have any national candidates on the ballot, their votes could be more important than ever.

Students who are not already registered to vote in the state are running out of time for voter registration. If students are already registered on campus, they may not know where to find their polling place. If they are registered to vote somewhere else but plan to cast an absentee ballot, they may not know how to request one in time.

How to register to vote:

To register, students must be  residents of Virginia, be at least 18 years old by election day, not be registered to vote in another state, and have a valid photo ID.

Students can register online through the website of Virginia’s Department of Elections (elections.virginia.gov), or through the mail to the Fairfax County Office of Elections (PO Box 10161 Fairfax, VA 22038).  Students must be registered to vote by Oct. 16 in order to cast a ballot on Nov. 7.

Where can you vote on campus?

For those students casting ballots in person on Nov. 7, Mason’s polling place is located on the Fairfax Campus in Merten Hall (4441 George Mason Blvd.). It will be open for voting from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day. Students will need to bring a valid photo ID with them to the polling location.

How to vote absentee:

Students who cannot make it to a polling place on election day can still cast an absentee ballot by mail. But to vote by mail, students will first need to download an Absentee Ballot Application from the state Elections Department’s website.

The application must be completed, signed and returned to the Fairfax County Office of Elections by 5 p.m. on Nov. 14. Once the application has been approved, an absentee ballot will be mailed to the voter’s address, which will be returned to the same office once it has been filled out by the voter.

Voter turnout in Virginia for presidential elections is relatively high when compared to the national average, with over 70 percent of Virginia voters turning out for the last four elections, according to the state’s Department of Elections.

However, that is not the case for other elections, like the governor’s race. Virginia’s election for governor occurs on “off-off years;” residents vote for a new governor in the year after a President and Vice President have been elected.

In 2013, only 43 percent of eligible voters in Virginia cast their ballots in the last governor’s election. This means that 57 percent of Virginians missed an opportunity to impact their state’s leadership. With election deadlines looming for voter registration and absentee ballots, the candidates for governor in this year’s election will need every vote that they can get.