From mailbox to ballot box: How poll workers are preparing for an unprecedented election

Roanoke has received 9,000 absentee voting applications, up from 500 at this point in 2016

ROANOKE, Va. – Election officials in the Star City are preparing for a voting season unlike any before it that kicks into high gear this week.

“We can’t just pull out the old playbook. We’ve had to create new paradigms and new ways to deal with that,” said Andrew Cochran, Roanoke’s director of elections and general registrar.

The biggest change is regarding absentee voting by mail. Cochran said his office is starting to send those ballots out this week.

At this point in 2016, his office had received 500 applications. Right now, that number is up to 9,000.

“We’ve had to really ramp up much earlier and we think that that will result in a lighter turn out on Election Day itself,” Cochran said.

If you’re one of the thousands of people planning to mail in your ballot this year, you’ll receive a packet in the mail with detailed instructions walking you through every part of the process.

You have until Oct. 23 to apply to vote absentee by mail. You can click here to start that application process..

There will be big changes for those voting in-person as well.

At polling locations, you can expect social distancing, PPE, hand sanitizer and sneeze guards.

New guidelines will be put to the test Friday, as in-person early voting kicks off.

“We have taken enormous measures. We have been very thoughtful. We’ve consulted with an awful lot of people who are experts to ensure that people can vote safely,” Cochran said.

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