Republicans and Democrats in Virginia are making a last-ditch effort to encourage early voting


With only a few days until Early voting begins In Virginia’s high-stakes election, Republicans and Democrats are making a last-ditch effort to encourage early and absentee voting in the commonwealth.

Every seat in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate is up for grabs this fall — a total of 140 seats in the General Assembly, and this week, parties and candidates are hosting multiple events across Virginia ahead of the first day of early election voting. Friday 22 September.

“What is clear is that this is going to be a very expensive and arduous campaign,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political analyst at the University of Mary Washington.

Photo: Christine Kozlowski, C, Assistant Chief Elections Officer, walks voters through the process as Virginia holds primaries for all legislative seats and local races on June 20, 2023, in Sterling, Virginia.

Assistant Chief Elections Officer Christine Kozlowski guides voters through the process as Virginia holds primaries for all legislative seats and local races on June 20, 2023, in Sterling, Virginia.

Jahi Chikwendeo/The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILE

In July, Virginia Democrats announced an initiative they hope will increase voter turnout before the November 7 election: “Project Majority,” a coordinated early voting campaign involving at least 100 paid organizers spread throughout across the Commonwealth.

“[It] It is an unprecedented coordinated effort, using every means available to drive absentee and early voting for the 2023 state legislative elections, according to a press release from Virginia Democrats.

That same month, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced a similar initiative called “Secure Your Vote Virginia,” aimed at encouraging Republicans to register for absentee ballots and vote early. A bus tour to promote the initiative began in early September.

Before early voting begins later this week, the bus tour will make nine stops “all the way from Northern Virginia all the way to Richmond and all the way to Hampton Roads,” said Dave Rexrode, a political advisor to Youngkin and chairman of his political action committee, Spirit of Virginia. .

Rexrod said Republican turnout was lower than Democratic turnout in previous elections, but he said he believed that if more people voted, Virginia Republicans would have a better chance of keeping the House and flipping the Democratic-controlled Senate.

While Virginia voters do not register by party, an analysis of voting history has shown that Democrats have tended to dominate early voting numbers in recent years.

Photo: Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin speaks at the grand opening ceremony for Amazon HQ2 on June 15, 2023 in Arlington, Virginia.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin speaks at the grand opening of Amazon HQ2 on June 15, 2023 in Arlington, Virginia.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“Part of our effort is making sure people understand what is at stake and what their options are this year and then making sure they show up and vote whether by mail early in person or on Election Day,” Rexrod said.

This election is particularly important because it will determine the party’s control of the currently divided legislature for the final two years of Yongqin’s term.

In 2020, former President Donald Trump discouraged Republicans from early voting, citing potential voter fraud, political experts told ABC News. Now, experts say, Republicans are in a “challenging place.”

“You can either continue with the Trump angle of early voting and mail-in voting providing the potential for fraud, or you can risk the wrath of Trump supporters who buy into the fraud angle,” said Dr. Chapman Rackaway, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science. Science at Radford University.

Yongkin won in 2021 “being a strategically astute candidate,” Rakway said.

“[He] “He probably sees the writing on the wall that discouraging GOP early voting is a long-term path to failure,” Rackaway told ABC News. “Hence the ‘Secure the Vote in Virginia’ initiative.”

“There is a growing feeling among political professionals that early voting/mail-in voting is a trend that will continue into the future,” he added. “So you can either embrace it or prepare to fail.”

Republicans across the country are working to harness the power of early voting, Farnsworth said.

“Republicans in Virginia have learned what a lot of national Republicans are still trying to figure out,” Farnsworth told ABC News. “Opposing early voting amounts to unilateral disarmament in elections.”

Virginia Democrats say the move by Republicans in the commonwealth to embrace early voting is “not surprising.”

“For three years, Republicans have fallen behind on early voting and they know it,” Morgan Hopkins, communications director for the Virginia House Democratic Caucus, told ABC News.

Farnsworth told ABC News that because the election is an off-year — one in which there are also no presidential or midterm elections — “this is the cycle where you have to work hard to get people to participate.”

“It’s not about winning over swing voters,” Farnsworth said. “It’s more about making sure your side is activated, whether it’s through anger or through fear, to actually show up and vote.”

With early voting, Farnsworth said, “The earlier you can convince voters to cast their ballots, the more you can focus on those people who have not yet voted in the lead-up to Election Day.”

The last day Virginians can vote early in person is November 4.

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