HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- When you ask Virginia voters of all political stripes why they came out to vote early, avoiding long lines on election day typically tops the list. More than 180,000 voters have already cast ballots ahead of November 2.
In less than a month, Virginians decide races for Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General and the balance of power in the House of Delegates.
A steady stream of voters turned out to the Hanover County Registrar’s Office around lunchtime Monday.
“You know sometimes the lines can be real crazy. And then, you know, it depends on what area you’re in or what time you get there,” said Lawrence Smith. “There’s a lot of things going on now, and you got to vote for whoever to get what you want.”
“It’s just easier for me, going back and forth and stuff. Then, I don’t have to worry about getting in line at my polling place,” Beth Duvall said. “Just the way things are going in the country right now, I really worry about things in the future for my grandchildren.”
As of Monday, 367,141 voters in Virginia have either voted early or requested a mail-in ballot for the November election, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
While the number already exceeds the total number of absentee votes in the 2017 gubernatorial election, before Virginia adopted no-excuse early voting, it does lag behind the numbers from the 2020 Presidential election, when turnout is historically higher overall.
While both major political parties have their own analysis for what the early numbers mean, CBS 6 political analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth said no one should be jumping to conclusions. Virginia voters do not have to register with a political party, so tracking enthusiasm based on early voting is strictly based on historical voting patterns where ballots are being returned.
“In the very early days of early voting, Republicans did better. But, the Democrats seem to be catching up,” Holsworth said. “It does appear that we’re probably going to have larger in-person voting in 2021 than we did in 2020 when we were right in the middle of the worst parts of the pandemic.”
ALSO READ: Virginia Voter Guide to the 2021 Election
Both frontrunners in the race for governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin, have deep pockets. Since polls show the race is somewhat tight, Holsworth expects both campaigns to flood the airwaves with ads and target specific voters with literature, an effort to get out voters who have backed their party in the past.
“Voters are going to see an enormous amount of commercials the next few weeks anytime they turn on the television, and they may not want to go to their mailbox as well,” Holsworth said. “I don’t think they expect the vast majority of people to read the mailers or read everything that’s out there, but they’re ways of informing the public that, ‘I’m on your side. If you care about this issue, I do too.’”
Calvin Shackleford called the vote he cast early in Richmond on Monday “precious.” The Air Force veteran is tired of the constant attacks and twisting of campaign politics and said voters need to do their own research whenever they head to the polls.
“I didn’t have to go through the long lines, I just had to make voting a priority,” Shackelford said. “Get your own information and don’t get wacked up in mind on misinformation and disinformation, it’s challenging times to sift through the stuff.”
Voters can either vote in person at the local registrar's office until October 30 or request a mail-in ballot before October 22. Again, registered voters no longer need a reason to vote early in Virginia.