Editorial: At long last, Election Day

The Virginian-Pilot & Daily Press Editorial Board, The Virginian-Pilot

Finally, Election Day is here.

If you’re not one of the many thousands of Virginians who have already voted early in person or by mail, this is your last chance to have a say in matters that are likely to have a great impact on the future — yours, your descendants', your nation’s, the world’s.

It’s that important. Elections really do matter.

Go to the polls and cast your ballot, even if you have to stand in line. Wear a mask and follow the guidelines that election officials have established to protect everyone’s health and safety — that of poll workers as well as voters.

That reminder is only one of the things that make Nov. 3, 2020, unlike any Election Day most of us can remember.

We’re voting in the midst of a pandemic that has already killed more than 226,000 Americans, with the numbers still mounting. We don’t know all we need to know about COVID-19, but we do know that it’s highly contagious and that it’s on the rise again.

Going to vote this year demands masks, hand sanitizing and social distancing.

We’re also voting at a time when the American people are deeply divided and seem to find little common ground. In some places, there are threats of voter intimidation.

We’re voting at a time when the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties, their visions for the future and their candidates seem more stark than usual.

And we’re voting at a time when the races further down the ballot — not only for U.S. Senate and House, but for local races and on important referendums — require careful consideration.

Going to vote this year demands courage and a conviction that it’s vital to stand up for your beliefs and have a say in the direction our nation is heading.

Fortunately, Virginia took steps earlier this year that have made it easier for people to register and to vote, easier to vote absentee by mail and easier to vote early.

As part of those reforms, today is a state holiday. The polls will close at 7 p.m., so be sure to get there by that deadline. People in line at that hour will be able to cast their ballots.

Those who requested an absentee ballot but haven’t used it can vote in person today. Take your ballot with you and give it to an election official, who will let you vote in person. If you don’t have the ballot, you should be allowed to cast a provisional ballot.

Or, if you have the absentee ballot, you can fill it out and take it to the local General Registrar’s Office.

Think of all you’ve heard about efforts in many states to deny some people the right to vote. There have been legislative maneuvers and court cases. There are controversies over where to place drop-off boxes for absentee ballots, where to open polling places and how long after Election Day to accept mailed ballots. Voting rolls have been purged. There’s talk of people harassing would-be voters.

So let us hope today proves those fears to be overblown, and that we can have faith in the integrity of our elections. Let us hope the message is clear: Every vote really does count.

Your vote in a free and fair election goes to the heart of our democracy. That’s how we get a government that’s representative of and responsive to its citizens.

There are people in other parts of the world who die trying to gain this essential right, one that too many of us take for granted.

That’s why it’s crucial for all of us to work together to guard the integrity, fairness and openness of our elections.

And that’s why it is essential for those who have not yet voted in today’s high-stakes election to make that effort today, even in the midst of a pandemic. Take your mask and head for the polls. It matters.

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