Voter registration deadline nears

Published 9:55 pm Saturday, September 19, 2009

With Virginians set to choose a new governor in November — as well as other statewide and local constitutional officers — time is running out to register to vote.

Oct. 5 is the deadline to register for the Nov. 3 general election, and Virginia officials are encouraging residents to make sure their names are on the voter rolls by stopping at either their local registrar’s office or at the Division of Motor Vehicles office nearest them.

All 74 Virginia DMV customer service centers and all 57 DMV Select offices throughout the state also offer voter registration. Check out www.dmvnow.com for locations and hours.

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In order to register to vote, a resident must complete a paper voter registration application, which then must be signed and approved by the local registrar, in this case Suffolk Voter Registrar Sharon Thornhill.

Once that process is complete, a voter registration card is mailed from the registrar’s office, notifying the voter of his or her borough and voting precinct.

As of Sept. 1, there were 54,566 registered voters in Suffolk, along with 248 military, overseas or temporary voters, according to the State Board of Elections. That number is down slightly from its level of 55,222 at this time last year, reflecting voters who have died, transferred to other Virginia localities, moved out of state, been convicted of felonies or been purged from the rolls for other reasons.

To be eligible to vote in Virginia, a resident must be a U.S. citizen 18 or older, not claim the right to vote in another state, not be currently declared mentally incompetent by a court of law and not be a convicted felon without having had the right to vote restored.

Many Virginia voters will be able to cast absentee ballots in this year’s elections. Those ballots were made available on Friday. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot by mail is Oct. 27 at 5 p.m., and the deadline to vote absentee in person is Oct. 31. All mailed absentee ballots must be received by the registrar by the time the polls close on Election Day. They will all be counted that day, as well.

A voter can qualify to cast an absentee ballot if he will be absent from the city where he is registered on Election Day or if he will be unable to get to the polls that day. Also, new legislation qualifies anyone who is a law-enforcement officer, paid or volunteer firefighter, search-and-rescue personnel or emergency medical services provider.

For more information about absentee voting, visit www.sbe.virginia.gov or call the registrar’s office at 514-7750.

Statewide offices appearing on the Nov. 3 ballot include governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. In Suffolk, voters also will choose a member of the House of Delegates in one of three districts, depending on where they live. The citywide constitutional offices of commonwealth’s attorney, commissioner of the revenue, sheriff and treasurer also will appear on the ballot.

None of the House of Delegates races are contested, and only the sheriff’s race is contested in Suffolk. All three of the state’s top administrative positions are up for grabs.