The James City County director of elections has a theory about the number of people who come into her office to turn in absentee ballots.
“We have more voters turn out when it’s raining,” Dianna Moorman said with a laugh.
Whether or not it’s been raining in James City County, that locality leads in the number of absentee ballot applications received on the Peninsula as of Wednesday, the day after requests for mail-in ballots were due.
“We have blown those numbers out of the water,” she said of the other Peninsula localities.
While that may be true, across Hampton Roads, absentee ballots have poured into registrar offices as voters face a particularly energizing midterm election.
The latest count of ballots requested in the region is nearly 46,000, according to the Department of Elections. And statewide, 315,919 absentee ballots have been requested — more than in 2017, 2015 or 2014.
In James City County, the Department of Elections reported 4,486 absentee ballot applications as of around 3 p.m. Wednesday. Moorman’s totals came in at a little higher, about 4,589 — double what the county had during the last midterms four years ago.
“I think it’s fantastic. It is a steady stream that we’ve got coming here into the office,” she said over the phone.
All the Hampton Roads localities increased their absentee ballot applications by 25 to 51 percent year over year.
And statewide, a Virginia Public Access Project analysis shows absentee ballot returns have nearly doubled over last year.
While registrar offices are collecting in-person absentee ballots until 5 p.m. Saturday, the deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail was Tuesday.
At the close of polls on Election Day, Hampton Roads residents will have voted for their representatives in several congressional district races as well as the U.S. Senate election.
A few local elections are also on the ballot, including in Virginia Beach, Poquoson, Portsmouth and York County.
In line with the state, voters in the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts, which include most of Hampton Roads, have been casting absentee ballots at almost double the rate of last year, the VPAP analysis shows.
Poquoson and Hampton, in the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts, respectively, have seen the largest increase year over year.
Absentee ballot voters have to give a reason for casting their ballots early instead of on Election Day, and in Hampton Roads, the No. 1 reason was personal business or vacation, followed by a disability or illness.
The largest Hampton Roads age group to request absentee ballots are people between the ages of 18 and 40, followed by people over 70.
Virginia Beach had the most absentee ballot applications so far with 14,531, followed by Chesapeake and James City County.
Last year, Virginia Beach had the most absentee voting applications with 9,758.
From the numbers the Department of Elections has reported so far, Mathews County is the only locality reporting lower absentee voting applications — seven to be exact — than in 2017.
While absentee voting ends at 5 p.m. Saturday, the polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.
Marie Albiges can be reached by phone at 757-247-4962 or on Twitter @Mariealbiges