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Voter Turnout Likely to Play a Big Role in the Outcome of Today's Elections


When the polls close and the vote counting starts, one thing to watch with the election returns is voter turnout.

When turnout is low, Republicans benefit. The last time a Republican won statewide was back in 2009, when turnout dropped down to 40% of registered voters. Democrats tend to do well when turnout is a bit higher, like in 2013 when Terry McAuliffe won in an election that had 43% turnout.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says he expects turnout in this year's election to be even higher than the 2013 election.

"In part because it is so much easier to vote now," Farnsworth says. "And so we know that many, many more people participated in the early ballot system this time around."

Some are predicting all that early voting will end up breaking records.

"I think we're going to have record turnout," explains Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University. He says he expects the total turnout this year to be even higher than 2017, when Ralph Northam won with a 48% turnout.

"And that's going to be the result of a competitive race, well-funded on both sides, Republicans more energized and enthusiastic than they have been," Kidd says. "But I still think that Democratic vote is there. I just think you're not seeing the Democratic enthusiasm represented by rallies because Democratic voters are less inclined to pack into rallies."

He says turnout might actually end up breaking 50%, which would be a huge turnout for a governor’s race. Now for comparison, the turnout in last year's presidential election was 75%.

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.