FAQs surrounding Election Day in Virginia

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(WFXR) — The November election is here and while some elections are cut and dry, not all are quite so easy to call.

WFXR News broke down some frequently asked questions surrounding the elections.

What does it mean when a race is “too close to call?”

Races across the Commonwealth have been unofficially called early, but in some cases, they’re just too close to call.

Calling a race is tricky business, people behind the decision spend the election working with political analysts. Throughout Election Day, they’re keeping track of exit polls, which are taken after people cast their ballot.

Once the polls close, the votes are counted and reported. From there, they’re determining if the trailing candidates still have the ability to catch the leader. If the candidates catch the leader, the results become too close to call. If they can’t call the race, it is unofficially a done deal. However, even if a race is called, it’s not officially over yet. Elections have to be certified to be official.

Why do mail-in ballots have to be in by a certain day?

The postal service warned nearly every state that its delays could impact mail-in ballot counts in the election, but across the Commonwealth, the postal service is taking steps to stop that from happening.

Registrar’s offices around Virginia were urging mail-in voters to get those ballots in the mailbox or risk them not being counted. Ballots have to be postmarked by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2 and reach the election office by noon on Friday, Nov. 5 to make sure they’re counted.

(Nexstar, file)

Friday is also the last day to fix any issues with your mail-in ballot, like a forgotten witness signature. The three-day deadline, after Election Day, gives local and state election officials time to double-check their counts before sending results to the Board of Elections. This certifies election results are in on Nov. 15.

The postal service says it’s taking several steps to make sure no mail-in ballots are missed. The company says it will sweep every post office on Election Day and provide a daily report on mail-in ballots that come through its boxes.

Why everyone is watching Virginia’s race?

All eyes are on the Commonwealth as the gubernatorial race usually has a ripple effect on national politics.

Virginia is one of only two states holding a governor’s race in 2021 and political experts say how parties do in this race is seen as a prediction of how they’ll do in next year’s midterms.

A loss for Democrats could even weaken the president’s political standing and sway in Congress. However, if the governor’s seat stays blue, experts say it could spur those on the fence to back the president’s agenda since voters are turning out.

The Commonwealth does not allow a governor to seek re-election during the next term. Therefore there is no incumbent advantage for either party, making it a more even playing field.

What is a mirage?

Political experts say a mirage is where results start coming in that might give you a false impression of who’s ahead.

During the election in 2020, partial returns showed President Joe Biden trailing and at one point he was down 18 points in the Commonwealth. However, once everything was counted and certified, it was actually Biden who came out on top.

The reason, more rural and conservative parts of Virginia usually tally up the votes first, because there are fewer ballots to count. This tends to skew the results, showing Republicans with big advantages, making it a so-called “red mirage”.

However, if Virginia processed mail-in ballots first, then Democrats could see big advantages, making it a so-called “blue mirage.” That’s because Democrats are more likely to vote by mail.

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