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Early Voting Off to a Very Slow Start So Far in Virginia; UVA Prof. Larry Sabato Says “This is falling off a cliff; I wonder how good Dems’ GOTV is this year”

Prof. Sabato also notes, "There's a natural fall-off because Trump isn't in the race (directly, at least)"


Early voting started in Virginia last Friday, and we now have some data and graphics from VPAP to indicate where we’re at…and also compared to last year’s presidential election and to 2017 (which is a problematic comparison because there was no COVID-19 pandemic then, and also that was before early voting rules were loosened up big time by the Democratic-controlled Virginia General Assembly in 2020). See below for some highlights and screenshots. In sum, though, as UVA Professor Larry Sabato told me a few minutes ago:

“There’s a natural fall-off because Trump isn’t in the race (directly, at least). But this is falling off the cliff. I wonder how good Dems’ GOTV is this year.”

  • Right now, as of 9/20, we’re at 225,696 total early voting — 195,996 mail ballot requests; 26,473 having voted in person (including Day #1-#3); and 3,226 having voted by mail. This compares to early voting statistics in the 2020 presidential election: 34,739 in person on Day #1 in 2020, 2,748 in-person on Day #2 in 2020, 32,199 in-person on Day #3 in 2020. So clearly, this year we’re starting off at a far slower pace than last year…nearly 70k last year after the first three days having voted in person vs. just over 26k this time around.
  • Comparing to 2017 – with no COVID pandemic OR a law that encouraged early voting – finds that in 2017, we had 118,124 cast early in-person and 77,510 cast early by-mail. This time around, we’ve had 195,997 mail ballot requests, plus 26,473 voting early/in-person so far. With easier early-voting rules, it seems like we’d be seeing a LOT higher numbers than what we had in 2017, frankly. Why aren’t we? Lack of enthusiasm to vote, or simply no urgency to vote early this time around (but maybe voters will still show up on election day)?
  • As for where people are voting early/in-person, the top Congressional Districts so far are “red” VA01 (3,367), “purple” VA07 (3,076), “deep-blue” VA04 (2,949), “deep-red” VA06 (2,590), “reddish-purple” VA05 (2,576), “blue” VA10 (2,533), “purple” VA02 (2,325), “deep-blue” VA08 (1,986), “deep-blue” VA11 (1,728), “deep-blue” VA03 (1,511). From a Democratic perspective, of course, what we’d want – and expect – to see is the big numbers coming from the deepest-“blue” districts (VA08, VA03, VA04,  VA11, etc.). So…these numbers aren’t great, really, in terms of indicating any particular Democratic voter enthusiasm to cast their ballots early this election
  • You can also see numbers for some individual counties and cities. Looking at the largest/most important counties from a Democratic perspective: Fairfax County so far has only seen 2,673 voters in person; Prince William County 1,197 voters in person; Richmond just 586 voters in person; Henrico County 1,199 voters in person; Norfolk just 326 voters in person; Albemarle County just 337 voters in person; Loudoun County just 807 voters so far; etc. Again…not great from a Democratic perspective.
  • Of course, we’re not really in the same place we were last year at this time from either a COVID-19 pandemic perspective or a pants-on-fire-get-Trump-the-HELL-outta-there/save-our-country-from-catastrophe perspective. So maybe people are returning to normal voting behavior (in other words, more on election day and not as much early/in-person voting)? Also, let’s keep an eye on how the mail-in ballot numbers look in coming days/weeks…
  • Anyway, check out the numbers yourself, and see if you agree with Professor Sabato that “There’s a natural fall-off because Trump isn’t in the race (directly, at least). But this is falling off the cliff. I wonder how good Dems’ GOTV is this year.” And make sure that you not only vote, but tell every Democratic voter you know to cast their ballot. The state you save from a right-wing takeover could very well be your own!



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