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Early Voter Turnout is Surging Across Virginia

Election Day is still a few weeks away, but more than 95,000 voters have already cast their ballots.

Election officials are seeing an unprecedented spike in early voting across Virginia as voters cast in-person absentee ballots weeks before the polls open.

According to numbers compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project, the largest spike is in Northern Virginia, where incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock is facing Democratic challenger Jennifer Wexton. Early voting is up 185 percent in this district compared to last year.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says it’s a phenomenon all over Virginia.

“You’re seeing a real uptick in all kinds of places, in Northern Virginia where there’s a very high-visibility congressional race. You’re seeing it around Richmond. You’re even seeing it in some of the districts that are actually not on the radar screen as all that competitive.”

Early voting is up the most in three of the most competitive congressional races. But it's also doubled in places like the Eighth Congressional District, where Democrat Don Beyer has nominal Republican opposition. Bob Denton at Virginia Tech says this is a very good sign for Democrats.

“We know historically early voting tends to be more Democratic. We know that Republicans start paying attention a little bit later, closer to an election. And certainly they tend to vote rather than do absentee or early voting. So it’s become quite a strategy.”

Voters still need an excuse to vote early — a hectic work schedule, for example, or out-of-town travel. But the numbers show more and more voters are finding a reason to vote early.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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