(The Center Square) — The Virginia Public Access Project tracks early voting in the commonwealth, and records are showing that districts with the greatest early voter turnout so far are majority Republican-leaning or solidly Republican districts.
For the House of Delegates, those are 14 of the top 20 districts with the most ballots cast, with five VPAP labeled ‘competitive’ and one leaning Democratic. For the state Senate, 10 of the top 20 districts typically vote Republican, four are competitive and six lean Democratic or are firmly Democratic.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the Republican Party in Virginia have encouraged early voting in this year’s General Assembly general election.
The state does not require, however, that voters indicate their party as part of their voter registration, so political pundits urge caution in drawing conclusions from turnouts thus far.
“We don’t know whether Youngkin’s efforts are drawing out new voters or just converting some usual Republican Election Day voters into early voters,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of a political analysis newsletter for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told The Center Square.
If dollars raised is any indication, in four of the five competitive House districts, Democrats have outraised Republicans. In District 82, Republican incumbent Kim Taylor currently leads Democratic candidate Kimberly Pope Adams by about $6,500. Republicans have won the majority of seven prominent elections going back to 2016 in only one of the competitive districts, District 57, where David Owen is running against Susanne Gibson.
In three of the four competitive Senate districts with the most early voting, Democrats have won the majority of those same prominent elections, but the funding advantages are split evenly between the four, with Republicans coming out on top in two races and Democrats in the other two.
Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and international affairs at the University of Mary Washington, also thinks spectators should be careful when reading into where the most early voting has happened until now. Still, he does think it was smart of Youngkin and Republicans to push early voting.
“I think Republicans, under Donald Trump, engaged in something pretty close to unilateral disarmament by discouraging early voting. Governor Youngkin has been wise to turn that around and encourage Virginia Republicans to vote early,” Farnsworth told The Center Square.