Sam Fowler, Capital News Service
The first day of early voting began Friday for the June 8 Virginia primary election.
Voters will be able to choose candidates in advance of the November state election, including for the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general races. Republican and Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates are also on the ballot.
Legislators recently changed laws to allow early, in-person and no-excuse absentee voting. A record number of absentee and early votes were cast during the last presidential election, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. Turnout was at its highest since 1992.
The voter registration deadline for the June primary is May 17. The deadline to request to have an absentee ballot mailed to a residence will be May 28 at 5 p.m.
Nearly half of Virginia’s Democratic voters are backing former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in his second bid to lead the state, according to a report released April 22 by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Newport News-based Christopher Newport University. McAuliffe, according to recent campaign finance reports, also leads the pack in fundraising.
None of the other four Democratic candidates reach double-digit support. Also on the primary ballot are Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (8%); Richmond Sen. Jennifer McClellan (6%); former Prince William Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (5%); and Manassas Del. Lee Carter (1%). The report states that 27% of voters are undecided.
The field for lieutenant governor is also crowded and almost two out of three Democratic voters are undecided, according to the Wason Center. Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, has emerged as the front runner with 12% support.
Attorney General Mark Herring, vying for his third term in the position, currently leads the attorney general race with 42% of Democratic voter support. Herring’s opponent Del. Jerrauld “Jay” Jones, D-Norfolk, has 18% voter support. More than 30% of Democratic voters are undecided about the attorney general race.
The gubernatorial election could be historic, said Jatia Wrighten, an assistant professor in the political science department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Four Black women are running for governor this year: two Democrats, one independent and a Republican. If any won, they would be the first Black woman to serve as head of any state, Wrighten said.
“What is so very different right now in Virginia is that you’re not only looking at one very competent, very viable, Black woman for the governorship, there’s two [Democratic] women running,” Wrighten said.
Wrighten doesn’t believe there will be an uptick in early voting.
“I don’t think there’s going to be [an] even larger increase from November but it is possible that maybe the rates stay the same,” Wrighten said.
A record number of Democrats in the House of Delegates face a challenge from within their own party this year, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
The 2020 Virginia General Assembly session marked the first time since 1994 that the Democrats controlled both chambers of the General Assembly along with the governor’s office. Virginia has shifted from a red to a blue state, which could be due to a change in demographics, especially around northern Virginia, Wrighten said.
The Republican party will hold a statewide convention on May 8. The party will determine its candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general by ranked choice voting among participating delegates.
Early voters must bring an acceptable ID to vote in person. They also can request an absentee ballot through the Virginia Department of Elections website or return an absentee ballot request by mail, fax, or email.
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.