RICHMOND, Va. -- When Virginia voters head to the polls on Super Tuesday, they will be greeted with 14 names on the ballot, even though nine of the candidates have dropped out of the race.
Virginia election officials finalized the 2020 Democratic primary ballots weeks ago so that absentee voting could begin, which is the standard process.
State officials said they cannot change the ballots even though most of the names on it have stopped seeking the nomination.
Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Chris Piper urged all Virginia voters to stay up to date with which candidates remain in the race.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden are the frontrunners to win Virginia, according to recent polling and political analysts. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard are also pushing ahead with their candidacy.
Monday afternoon, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) announced she would suspend her campaign and back Biden. Former South Ben, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg ended his run Sunday night.
Longtime political analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth said Biden could have a big night in Virginia coming off his win in the South Carolina and key endorsements from top Virginia Democrats.
“In just the past couple of days, former Governor Terry McAuliffe, Congressman Bobby Scott, Senator Tim Kaine have all endorsed Joe Biden. So, my thinking is Virginia could be a good state for Joe Biden tomorrow night,” said Holsworth. “He’s going to have to do well in Virginia and other southern states because Bernie Sanders is likely to quite well in the West. I think Sanders is going to win California and may well win Texas as well.”
After the first four primary and caucuses, Sanders holds the overall delegate lead.
Virginia election officials said absentee primary ballot returns in 2020 have been much higher than in 2016 with more than 54,000 already returned by Monday morning.
Piper said that could be a sign of higher than usual voter engagement or a furthering of the trend Virginia has seen of late with more people taking advantage of absentee voting.
The Republican Party of Virginia chose to cancel their primary and back President Trump at the party convention this summer.
Richmond voters who are backing several different candidates all said they hope the party can unify following what has been a messy primary battle.
Nick Vega, who is working on his graduate degree at VCU, said he supported Bernie Sanders in 2016 and is hopeful the Vermont Senator will secure the nomination in 2020, including a win in Virginia.
“I would very much like to see Bernie take us in a better direction than we are now, so fingers crossed,” Vega said. “I think going far left could have some adverse effects on people who are more conservative, lead to more turmoil. But then again I think we need more of a radical change.”
Mother and daughter Paula and Alexandra Cook said they began discussing the primary earlier in the year. Alexandra plans to support Sanders, but Paula did not say who she plans to support. Both are hopeful that after a primary fight the eventual nominee is not damaged too badly in the process.
“They trip each other up all the time. I just want them to get to the point where they're unifying and whoever that is, I’ll vote for them,” Paula said.
“I think the less candidates the better because there are just too many spread out,” Alexandra said. “I don't think there's a lot of unity in general in this country, especially in both parties. So, we'll see.”
Sara Long lives in Hanover and planned to vote for Sen. Klobuchar before she dropped out of the race.
Long said although the 2020 nominating process felt overwhelming and taxing to some, Virginia voters did get to see the battle of ideas play out before casting ballots.
“It’s kind of all bets are off in the beginning, and let’s hear from all of them,” Long said. “Isn’t that a democracy?”
Polls open at 6 a.m. on Tuesday and stay open until 7 p.m. Voters still need to bring an accepted form of photo ID to their polling location.