U.S. News


Counted On: Ballot Curing to Make Every Vote Count

Newsy follows the James City County, Virginia elections office as they oversee record early voting and prepare for election day.
Posted at 4:30 PM, Oct 27, 2020

Virginia election law mandates that county elections officials review the envelope containing each absentee ballot before sending it off to be counted. The process is known as "ballot curing". 


"So these have all been marked where we receive them and the date we receive them." James City Count volunteer Eden Glenn walked Newsy through the process. "I look on the envelope that contains the ballot. And I look to see that the name matches the name where they're registered and that the address is the same and that they've signed it. If there's any discrepancy, then that's when we contact the voter and see how they can cure it — most often to come in and cure it."

Out of every 200 ballots, Glenn says she tends to find four or five that need to be fixed. 

"Some voters thought that early voting never existed before this election," Director of Elections Dianna Moorman told Newsy. "All of these methods have always been in place, it's just on steroids - each component of it."

Ballot curing is even more complicated for voters stationed overseas in the military.

"There's no place for them to write their name or address. The envelope doesn't ask for their names, it just asks for the signature. So we have to sit there and flip through hundreds of applications and say, 'Oh, look, that signature looks like.'" 

Moorman pulls an envelope off the top of a stack of papers. "Well, this one came from Korea. But if we don't understand the handwriting and we find the thing that matches up, there's a risk of them not being counted." 

But Senior Assistant General Registrar Sheila Lohr says so far they've managed to match all the signatures. "It takes awhile, but we find them," she said.

For Moorman and Lohr it's worth the extra work. "Every single time we process one, we are like, 'OK, if this is our vote and we want it to count, what do we have to do and what would we want somebody to do for us?'" Moorman said.

"People say, 'Oh no, my vote doesn't count. Well, how many of those people say my vote doesn't count? Extrapolate that out. Then suddenly you have 500 people that say that their one vote didn't count. And suddenly, 500 is a huge difference. Every single vote counts."