Primary Day: What you need to know before you vote in Virginia

Published: Mar. 2, 2020 at 1:13 PM EST
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It's a day crucial to America's democratic process in every state, but one that often creeps up on people or goes ignored: Primary Day.

Tuesday, March 3, is an election day in Virginia, when voters can turn out to their polling places to choose which candidates will represent their party of choice in this year's November elections.

Most years, Primary Day includes elections for both parties, whether for local or state legislative races or for nationwide races. However, this year, there are no primaries for local or state offices, and the Republican Party of Virginia chose to not hold a presidential primary to instead choose the Republican nominee, likely incumbent President Donald Trump, at their convention.

So the only primary election on March 3 will be the Democratic presidential primary.

However, as Virginia holds open primaries – meaning that anyone registered to vote can vote in any primary, regardless of party affiliation – anyone, even if registered as a Republican, can vote in Tuesday's primary.

We've compiled a list of everything you need to know about how to vote, from polling times to whether or not you can take a ballot selfie and much more, below.

When polls open and close

In Virginia, polls are open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. Any voter in line by 7 p.m. will be able to vote.

How to find your polling place

There are over 2,500 precincts in Virginia. You can find your polling location by visiting


Am I registered to vote?

If you're not sure if you're registered to vote, you can check your Virginia registration online

. The deadline to register was Monday, Feb. 10 (it's generally 22 days before general or primary elections), but you've still got plenty of time to register to vote in the November elections.

Acceptable forms of ID

For now, Virginia voters must present photo ID in order to vote. Both chambers of the General Assembly have

, but that bill has not yet been signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam.

When that law does take effect in the future, voters will be able to show voter registration documents, bank statements, paychecks or any government document that shows your name and address.

Voters who do not show valid identification when signing in to vote under that pending law would be required to sign a sworn affidavit stating that they they are who they claim to be. The signed statement subjects the person to Class 5 felony penalties if the statement is false.

A voter who doesn't show photo ID or sign the statement will be given a provisional ballot.

However, until that law is officially signed and codified, photo IDs are still required to vote across the commonwealth.

Here are all the acceptable forms of photo ID that can be used. Each can be used up to a year after that ID has expired.

• Valid Virginia Driver’s License or Identification Card

• Valid Virginia DMV-issued Veteran’s ID card

• Valid United States Passport

• Other government-issued photo identification cards (must be issued by US Government, the Commonwealth of Virginia, or a political subdivision of the Commonwealth)

• Tribal enrollment or other tribal ID issued by one of 11 tribes recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia

• Valid college or university student photo identification card (must be from an institution of higher education located in Virginia)

• Valid student ID issued by a public school or private school in Virginia displaying a photo

• Employee identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by an employer of the voter in the ordinary course of the employer’s business

Can I still submit an absentee ballot?

Yes! Absentee ballots can be submitted by mail until 7 p.m. on any election day.. In-person absentee voting has ended.

Will I be voting on a machine or a paper ballot?

Following threats in recent years of hacks of computerized voting machines, Virginia accelerated a return to paper ballots in 2017.

The Virginia Board of Elections de-certified Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch screen machines, which made up about one third of all voting equipment in the Commonwealth, as of 2017.

That means now, no matter where you vote in Virginia, you will be casting your vote on a paper ballot, which will then be fed into an Optical Scanner that records the results.

Your local government is responsible for buying and maintaining voting systems in your precinct, but the State Board of Elections certifies equipment for use in Virginia.

How does a primary work?

On most primary election days, when you walk into your polling place, you'll be asked which party you're there to vote for. In a primary, there are no independents or unaffiliated candidates – the purpose is to narrow down the two main parties' candidates to one on each side.

It doesn't matter if you're registered with one party or the other in Virginia — you can choose to vote in either primary, but only in one of the two.

However, in this specific election, our districts all only have one open primary, so you'll really only have one choice: the Democratic presidential primary.

Once you're in the booth, you'll choose which of the candidates you would like to represent the party in the presidential election.

Can I take a ballot selfie?

Short Answer:

In Virginia, yes, but be aware of people around you who may not want to be in the photo.

Long Answer:

Virginia has no specific law against voting selfies, so you're free to take whatever picture you want. Just be respectful of the people around you and realize that some people take voting as a very personal situation.


You can find a full listing of all the candidates in the Primaries


You can also check directly through the Virginia Department of Elections' website, based on your registered voting address,



Learn more about voting in West Virginia, where the primary will be held Tuesday, May 12:


Learn more about voting in Virginia:


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