More than 1.7 million voters in our region have already sent in mailed ballots for the November election, with about 1.6 million mailed ballots still awaiting return.
Turnout has been astronomical, particularly in Virginia, where in-person early voting began in mid-September. As of Friday, more than 1.73 million Virginia voters have cast a ballot. That's nearly 30% voter turnout with 11 days until Election Day. The number of absentee ballots returned in the commonwealth has already eclipsed the total number returned for the November 2016 election.
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Throughout DC, Maryland and Virginia, workers are getting ahead of election night by scanning ballots in, checking for signatures, and getting ready to count.
"Sending out 30-plus thousand absentee ballots is a lot of work," said Angie Maniglia Turner, director of elections for Alexandria. “There's been a lot of staff time, a lot of volunteers. So it's always kind of good to see those ballots coming back.”
More than 66% of Alexandria's voters who requested mailed ballots have already sent them back. That, along with approximately 21,000 in-person early voters, means a whopping 42% of all the city's registered voters have already voted.
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"We have a very interested and active electorate," said Maniglia Turner.
She hopes that will amount to shorter lines and fewer people on election day. Arlington County also has more than 66% of its mailed ballots back in and nearly 44% total voter turnout.
D.C. Board of Elections Chairman Michael Bennett says early voting also will enable elections officials to have more complete results on election night.
"The earlier we get the mail-in ballots back in, the better off we're going to be relative to being able to have numbers," Bennett said.
In Maryland and Virginia, voters had to request a mailed ballot if they didn't want to vote in person. Nearly 52% of the mailed Maryland ballots are already back in and more than 62% of Virginia's mailed ballots have been returned.
In D.C., only 26% of mailed ballots had been returned as of Friday, which Bennett says is likely because the District mailed a ballot to all registered voters whether they requested one or not.
"It's almost impossible to compare D.C. to Virginia and Maryland," said Bennett, adding that voters who have to take an active step to get the ballot are more likely to use it.
Early voting in the District doesn't start until Tuesday, Oct. 27.
"This is like having two elections," said Bennett. "But so far, things are going really well."
Maryland's early voting starts Monday. But more than 861,000 Marylanders have already voted by mail, with just over 808,000 mailed ballots still left to come back.
The one thing all three locations have in common? Elections officials are urging all voters to vote as soon as possible.
"We always get some [mailed ballots] received after the election that unfortunately, can't, ah, can't be counted," said Maniglia Turner.
Elections offices throughout D.C., Maryland and Virginia will accept mailed ballots that are postmarked by Nov. 3.
But while D.C. and Maryland allow 10 days for the ballot to arrive by mail, Virginia ballots have to be received at the elections office by noon on Friday, Nov. 6. That's basically two-and-a-half days if you wait until the last minute to mail it.
Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Katie Leslie, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.