What to know before you vote on Primary Day in Virginia

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, June 11, 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 key legislative races this year.

Across the commonwealth, local offices are up for grabs this fall.

In our area, there are three races for which you can cast a primary ballot: the Democratic primary for the House of Delegates 26th District, the Republican primary for the House of Delegates 20th District, and the Republican primary for the Senate 24th District.

House of Delegates 26th District

In the 26th district race, two Democrats are vying to take on Delegate Tony Wilt, who's running for re-election. Brent Finnegan and Catherine Copeland are the challengers.

Finnegan currently works at James Madison University's Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services. He expressed his beliefs on transitioning Virginia away from fossil fuels.

"How can we make Harrisonburg a walk-able, bike-able, live-able city that is sustainable moving through the 21st Century?" Finnegan asked.

Copeland works as an adjunct instructor of Writing & Rhetoric at James Madison University. She raised concerns about mental health and maternal health care.

"Making sure that we are funding the ways that people have to actually encounter mental health to make sure that we have ways that insurance covers it," Copeland said.

You can watch the full 1on1 interviews with each of them above. The winner of that primary will face off against Republican Del. Wilt in November.

House of Delegates 20th District

In the 20th district, Delegate Dickie Bell announced this past December that he would be stepping down after a decade in the seat to spend more time with his family. With the seat open for the first time in years, Republicans John Avoli and Dave Bourne are each running for the Republican nomination to take Bell's place.

Avoli, the former mayor of Staunton, tells WHSV he hopes for change with Interstate 81.

"81 has been a quagmire for years," Avoli said. "Luckily, maybe, something is going to be done about it, but I can tell you one thing. When elected, I will persevere 100% to focus in on what is there."

Bourne claims Avoli will bring more tax increases if elected.

"Under his watch of the City of Staunton," Bourne said, "the budget almost doubled and the property taxes went up 135%."

You can watch their full 1on1 interviews above as well. The winner of that primary will run against Democrat Jennifer Lewis in November.

Senate 24th District

In the 24th Senate district, Republican Emmett Hanger is facing a challenge from political veteran Tina Feitas in a heated race for the Republican nomination.

Freitas, a Culpeper resident, is a constitutional conservative who claims her opponent has argued against the pro-life Hyde Amendment — which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, except to save the life of a woman or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape.

"That is not the position that a 100% pro-life candidate should take," Freitas said, "especially if he is sending out literature talking about being 100% pro-life."

Hanger says those claims against him are false.

"In the past, I've never really wanted to interact in a negative way about an opponent," Hanger said, "but they are trying to basically paint a picture to say I'm a nice guy, but I must have fallen on my head and I want to kill babies and take their guns away."

You can watch the full 1on1 interviews with them above. The winner of that primary will face off against Democrat Annette Hyde in November.

House of Delegates 25th District

The 25th House district was also left vacant after Delegate Steve Landes announced a plan to run for Augusta County Clerk of Court instead of re-election, but a firehouse primary was held earlier this year with limited voting, which resulted in Chris Runion winning the Republican bid.

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

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 this link.

Am I registered to vote?

If you're not sure if you're registered to vote, you can check your Virginia registration online here. The deadline to register was Thursday, May 16 (it's always 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

Virginia voters must present photo ID in order to vote. 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 Election Day. In-person absentee voting ends on Saturday, June 8.

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?

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 party's 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, each district only has one open primary, so you'll really only have one choice of party.

Once you're in the booth, you'll choose which of the candidates you would like to represent the party in the race for the House or Senate districts.

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.

KNOW WHAT'S ON YOUR BALLOT

If you haven't paid close attention throughout the campaign, you may not know each of the candidates running in Tuesday's primary.

To help you out, WHSV's Bob Corso has conducted 1on1 interviews with each of the Democratic candidates. You can find each of them in the video player at the top of this page.

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

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

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Learn more about voting in West Virginia (which doesn't have primaries in odd-numbered years): West Virginia Voting FAQs.

Learn more about voting in Virginia: Virginia Voter Resources.