Virginia sees record early voting compared to past midterm elections

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A record number of Virginians are voting early compared to past midterm elections.

The last day to vote early, in-person is Saturday, Nov. 5. Mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day, which is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Virginians can also choose to hand deliver their ballot to a certified drop box at their polling location.

According to the Virginia Department of Elections, 799,099 people voted absentee, either in-person or by mail, as of Friday, Nov. 4. That’s more than double the 337,315 people who voted absentee during the 2018 midterms.

It’s not clear if the spike in turnout is due to a recent expansion in early voting access or a boost in voter enthusiasm. In 2020, the General Assembly passed laws allowing Virginians to vote absentee without an excuse and increasing the early voting period to one of the longest in the country.

“It at least shows us that there is interest in this election, that it is not going to be a fall off to 25 percent turnout or some really anemic numbers that we used to see a decade ago,” said political analyst Rich Meagher. “Turnout is not going to be as high as it would be in a presidential year but I still think we’re going to see some significant numbers.”

All eleven of Virginia’s House seats are on the ballot. The Cook Political Report has labeled the 7th and 2nd Districts races “toss ups” that could help decide control of Congress.

Democrats and Republicans have used notably different campaign strategies to convince their voters to show up.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin is hoping to continue a so-called “red wave” that started last year when Republicans swept statewide races. Come Election Day, Youngkin will have headlined 22 rallies for GOP congressional candidates across Virginia, according to his staff.

“The momentum feels really strong and the issues that are on the ballot are the same ones as last year for folks, which is runaway inflation. This silent thief is stealing so many people’s hard-earned money. On top of that, crime and real concerns about education,” Youngkin told reporters at an event on Friday morning. “I think we’ll see a number of Congressional seats flip.”

Meagher said Youngkin has given Republican candidates a popular leader to lean on as they try to raise their profiles and defeat Democratic incumbents.

“The party in power in Washington always loses seats in a midterm election with very few exceptions,” Meagher said, “The Biden administration is not all that popular here in Virginia. You can’t get national stars to come in and campaign. So instead the Democratic campaigns are relying more on grass roots work and small gatherings.”

Virginia’s Democratic Party Chair Susan Swecker said in an interview on Friday that U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner are canvassing for Democratic candidates in the final stretch.

“We are from the school of door knocking, phone calling and hauling people to the polls,” Swecker said when asked about the lack of rallies.

Swecker said much is at stake if Republicans take back control of the House and Senate.

“Please go vote to make sure that we save Social Security and Medicare, protect women’s right to choose and save our democracy,” Swecker said.