Virginia sees increase in absentee voting over last midterms

Many locations receive more than double the number of ballots from 2014

One sign of excitement surrounding Tuesday’s elections is the high number of absentee ballots submitted in Virginia and around the country.

Absentee voting can be an indication of what voter turnout will be like, and there have been more than double the number of ballots cast in many locations compared to the 2014 midterms, which were the last similar elections.

With more than 2,000 absentee votes in the city of Roanoke, there are more than twice as many as there were four years ago.

The trend holds in Salem, Montgomery County and Lynchburg.

Roanoke City
2018: 2,101
2014: 979

2018: 856
2014: 359

Montgomery County 
2018: 2,562
2014: 952

2018: 1,466
2014: 747

The numbers are up across Virginia and nationally.

Roanoke election officials had to order more absentee ballots about halfway through the time period.

“It was surprising. The very first week it's not uncommon -- because it's a 45-day period -- it's not uncommon to have zero voters the first week and we had a dozen the first day, so energy and awareness were very high out of the gate on this one,” said Andrew Cochran, the director of elections in the city of Roanoke.

His department also ordered more ballots for Election Day, based on the absentee returns.

“It, I think, is indicative that there is a high interest in the election and more people will be out than normal,” he said.

Staff members delivered necessary equipment and documents Monday to polling places.

Major party leaders in the Roanoke Valley are happy to hear about the high ballot counts, including Roanoke City Republican Committee chair Charlie Nave, who said the high interest is good for Republicans in the area.

“There's a lot of interest and a lot of excitement in this campaign. Ben Cline and Corey Stewart have been working really hard -- all over the Commonwealth for Corey, all up and down the district for Ben,” he said.

Susan Cloeter, the Roanoke County Democratic Committee chair, said the numbers make her optimistic for her party.

“It gives me hope because typically when there's higher turnout that's good for Democrats,” she said. “I think that the last two years have been so volatile and people are just more engaged.”

In Roanoke, U.S. attorney Thomas Cullen has appointed someone to specifically handle voting complaints for the Western District. Below is a statement from his office:

“Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Miller will be on duty in the Western District while the polls are open. He can be reached by the public at the following telephone number: 540-857-2914.

"In addition, the FBI will have special agents available in each field office and resident agency throughout the country to receive allegations of election fraud and other abuses on Election Day. The local FBI field offices can be reached by the public at 540-344-3912.

"Complaints about violations of federal voting rights can be made directly to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section in Washington, DC by phone at 1-800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767, by fax at 202-307-3961, by email at voting.section@usdoj.gov or by complaint form at http://www.justice.gov/crt/complaint/votintake/index.php.”