High turnout reported as polling stations close in Virginia government close election

Virginia voters turned up in droves on Tuesday in the Commonwealth’s gubernatorial election, a closely monitored race widely seen as a referendum on nine months of united democratic governance and a preview of next year’s midterm vote.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who served as Virginia’s governor between 2014 and 2018, had been a big favorite against Republican Glenn Youngkin in a state president Biden carried by 10 percentage points last year. But McAuliffe spent the last weeks of the campaign on the defensive as Youngkin attacked him on training, which was long considered a pet-democratic issue.

Despite McAulife’s attempts to tie Youngkin to former President Donald Trump, at least one exit poll indicated the Republican had a higher favoritism rating than his rival. An NBC News survey showed that 53 percent of voters had a positive view of Youngkin, while the same percentage had an unfavorable view of McAuliffe.

Youngkin recently rose ahead of McAuliffe in some polls ahead of the Virginia election.
Youngkin recently rose ahead of McAuliffe in some polls ahead of the Virginia election.
REUTERS / Elizabeth Frantz

Two exit polls, one from NBC News and other from CBS News, found that as many as 84 percent of voters said parents should have either “a lot” or “something” to say in their children’s school curriculum, indicating that Youngkins attacked McAuliffe over issues such as critical race theory in schools and advocates for major parental involvement had hit a chord among voters in recent weeks.

The CBS exit poll also showed President Biden’s approval rating of only 43 percent, while 54 percent rejected the job the president performs in office.

Election analysts predicted that turnout would exceed the 2.6 million who voted in the 2017 gubernatorial election and could even top 3 million. Early data indicated that turnout had increased in both traditionally democratic and Republican areas, giving further unpredictability to the outcome.

A series of people waiting to vote on Election Day in Alexandria, Virginia on November 2, 2021.
A series of people waiting to vote on Election Day in Alexandria, Virginia on November 2, 2021.
Photo by AP / Alex Brandon

Absent ballot papers and early votes were expected to be counted first and show McAuliffe a major initial advantage. It was expected that Youngkin would close the gap when election day votes were spoken and reported, but it was unclear whether he would have enough to revise whatever McAuliffe received.

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, more than 1.16 million people had voted ahead of election day, most of whom cast their ballots in person. However, postal ballots can give a late twist if the result is close.

The gubernatorial race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin is expected to have a high turnout, according to analysts.
The gubernatorial race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin is expected to have a high turnout, according to analysts.
Photo by Win McNamee / Getty Image

Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Chris Piper told WRIC-TV that his department had not yet received approximately 88,000 ballot papers. Virginia law allows ballots postmarked on election day to be counted as long as they arrive at noon three days later – November 5th.

That means if McAuliffe and Youngkin are neck-and-neck, the result may not be known until this weekend.

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