RICHMOND, Va. — More Virginians decided to take advantage of absentee voting during the Commonwealth's primary election this year.
Data provided by the Virginia Department of Elections shows more than 115,000 absentee ballots were returned by voters for the 2021 primary. In 2017, that number was 26,575.
The large increase of Virginians deciding to mail in their ballots or vote early comes after the Commonwealth's General Assembly decided to pass legislation that said residents did not need to provide an excuse to vote absentee.
Bryan Graham, chair of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, said he believes that change is directly responsible for the bump in absentee voters across Virginia.
"I think we are going to see a continued push for people to vote early," he said. "And, certainly, I think the pandemic is a driver on top of that now, but I know, as a party, we are pushing people to vote when they can."
So far, it appears the turnout for Tuesday's Democratic primary was lower than four years ago. Virginia elections officials counted more than 480,000 ballots from voters selecting the Governor, with more than 99% of precincts reporting, Tuesday night. In 2017, more than 542,000 people cast ballots in that same primary.
However, Graham says he is not currently concerned about turnout amongst Democrats.
"The candidates that are on the other side from the Republicans are a stark contrast in leadership qualities and the people that are supporting them," he said. "So, I think people are going to be motivated to vote in November regardless of whether or not they wanted to have a say in today's primary."
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