10:10 a.m. Wednesday. Republicans take majority in House.
A belated squaring of the circle: While most of us were sleeping, another Democratic seat flipped Republican so forget all that speculation about a tie in the House: Republicans will have a majority outright. So much for Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn’s pre-election declaration that “the majority is safe.”
12:30 a.m. A wrap-up:
I’m going to wrap this up for the night. Here’s an overview of where things stand:
Republicans have swept the three statewide races — Glenn Youngkin becomes first Republican to win governorship (or any statewide election) since 2009; Winsome Sears becomes first Black woman to win statewide office and our third Black lieutenant governor; Jason Miyares becomes first Virginian to oust a sitting attorney general since 1885. Democrats are holding out hope for late-arriving mail ballots and other uncounted votes but I don’t see it happening.
Republicans have picked up five seats to forge an apparent tie in the House of Delegates. There’s no constitutional mechanism for how to deal with a tie, so the parties will have to negotiate some kind of power-sharing agreement like they did in 1998 — this party gets the speakership but that party gets these committee chairs, and so forth.
Richmond appears to have voted down a casino, which likely means more business for the one coming to Danville. (More on that casino here.)
Amherst appears to have voted down off-tracking betting (we’re still three precincts short, so we can’t say for certain). Emporia, though, is definitely having off-track betting; referendum won big there.
Danville passed a tax increase for schools and a bond issue for schools. In Pittsylvania County, which had its own tax increase for schools referendum, the “no” side holds a 44-vote edge but we won’t know for certain until the late-arriving mail ballots are counted. Friday noon is the deadline for those. Since I don’t know how many are outstanding, I don’t know how likely it is that the “yes” side can make up that 44-vote deficit.
Nottoway County will keep its Confederate statue.
In Franklin County, the candidate boosted by an anti-mask group has won the at-large seat on the school board. Anti-mask write-in candidates failed in Botetourt County; the write-ins haven’t been counted but the number of write-ins is less than the number of votes for the incumbents.
11:39 p.m. Here’s what we’re waiting on
Off-track betting in Amherst County is probably going to lose but we won’t know for sure until the absentee votes are counted. No word on when that will be.
In Pittsylvania County, the “no” side of the tax-for-schools question leads by 44 votes but we’re still waiting on what appears to be the late-arriving mail votes.
We’re also still waiting on resolution in a bunch of House races to know which party controls the House of Delegates — or if it’s a tie, which seems to be the current betting line. Just not at that off-track parlor in Amherst that probably won’t happen.11:20 p.m. A tie in the House?
Democrats have now pulled ahead, narrowly, in two House races where they had previously trailed, which means there’s now a reasonable chance the House could wind up tied 50-50. There’s no mechanism to break the tie; the parties just have to work it out just like they did in 1998. Interesting times. Stay tuned! We may not know the House make-up until tomorrow.
10:50 p.m. Republicans on verge of winning House of Delegates
I’m counting eight seats where Republicans have either already won or are leading. They need six to win control. I’m hesitant to “call” races in districts where I don’t fully understand the lay of the land but it does look likely that Republicans will win back the House.
10:46 p.m. Richmond on verge of voting down casino
This is something that Danville — and Bristol, but especially Danville — might have interest in. With just one precinct out, Richmond is voting down a casino. Right now it’s 39,824 no, 37,599 yes. If there’s no casino in Richmond, it would make sense that those who want to roll their dice (or whatever) would head to Danville.
10:17 p.m. Confederate monument stays in Nottoway County
No surprise there. We have yet to have a referendum where voters said “yes, move it.” In Nottoway, the vote was 67.8% “no.”
9:34 p.m. Pittsylvania school vote comes down to final precinct
With 31 of 32 precincts reporting, the “no” vote currently leads 12,724 to 12,680. This was a vote on whether to raise taxes to pay for schools. Danville had a separate tax question and voted overwhelmingly yes.
9:31 p.m. Danville passes school bond issue.
Big margin, too: 68% said yes. Also, 60% said yes to tax increase to pay for it.
9 p.m. Republicans will sweep state offices; question is House
This one’s over, folks. Youngkin, Sears, Miyares appear on track to win. Many news organizations are already calling the race. What we don’t know yet is how the House will go but Republicans appear to have a shot at taking control back. I’m going to dial back the running commentary to focus on writing a more explanatory piece but I’ll be here from time to time to update some of the local races as we have them.
8:50 p.m. “No” vote leads on off-track betting in Amherst County
With 9 of 14 precincts reporting, it’s 53.83% “no” on the question of whether to allow off-track betting in Amherst. Anyone want to bet on the remaining five precincts?
8:45 p.m. Republican eye House takeover
Many news organizations are calling the race for Youngkin. I’ve also just counted seven House of Delegates races where Republicans lead Democratic incumbents. Many of those are pretty early returns and I don’t know those districts well enough to know where the votes are coming from, so I don’t know if those early returns are representative or not. But it’s entirely possible Republicans will take back the House.
8:36 p.m. “Yes” vote still leads in Pittsylvania
With 27 of 32 precincts reporting, the “yes” side of the tax-for-schools question in Pittsylvania County still leads — 56.85% to 43.15%. No word yet on the separate tax question in Danville.
8:32 p.m. Youngkin flips Radford
Youngkin isn’t just maximizing the Republican base in rural areas, he’s flipping voters elsewhere. In 2017, Radford went to Northam over Gillespie by 2,163 to 1,707. Now with 6 of 7 precincts reporting in Radford, it’s Youngkin 2,265, McAuliffe 1,874.
8:27 p.m. Ballard will defeat Hurst
With 35 of 44 precincts reporting, Republican challenger Jason Ballard leads Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery County, by 10,551 to 6,953. But here’s all you need to know: Ballard has carried Radford, a normally Democratic locality. That one’s over.
8:18 p.m. How Youngkin is maximizing his rural base, part 2.
Bland County is another good example, after Bath County below. In 2017, Bland went Gillespie 1,676, Northam 388. In 2020, Bland went Trump 2,903, Biden 532. This year, with all 10 precincts reporting, Bland went Youngkin 2,272, McAuliffe 364. So Youngkin once again is approaching presidential-level Republican numbers while McAuliffe is running behind gubernatorial-level Democratic numbers. Percentage-wise, Bland went 80.4% for Gillespie, 83.4% for Trump and now is 85.9% for Youngkin. For all of us who wondered whether Republicans could squeeze even higher percentages out of a declining rural base, the answer so far is a resounding “yes.”
8:08 p.m. How Youngkin is maximizing his rural base
I’ve been pointing out that, because of the unusual order in which votes are counted, we need to hold our breath until we get some more numbers. Bath County finally delivers. In Bath, 9 of 10 precincts have reported, with the only one outstanding being the absentee precincts for mail ballots that are postmarked by today but don’t arrive until later in the week. That means we can draw some conclusions here. In Bath, Youngkin has taken 79% of the vote to 20.36% for McAuliffe. Four years ago, Republican Ed Gillespie took 68.4% of the vote in Bath. Last year, Donald Trump took 73.3% of the vote in Bath. So Youngkin has squeezed out an even higher percentage of the vote in Bath.
He’s doing the same with actual numbers: Gillespie polled 1,013 votes out of Bath. Trump took 1,834. Youngkin has taken 1,534, so he’s getting nearly presidential-level Republican numbers out of Bath in a gubernatorial year. Let’s see how that plays out in other rural counties. Meanwhile, McAuliffe’s numbers are lower than Northam’s four years ago. Northam took 430 votes out of Bath, McAuliffe found only 395.
8:03 p.m.: Ballard leads Hurst, what’s still out
With 14 of 44 precincts reporting, Republican Jason Ballard leads Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery 3,814 to 3,181. Like many districts, this one is very bifurcated. Radford, which is very Democratic, is nearly all in. Montgomery County, also Democratic, has reported 7 of 20 precincts. But none of Giles County, a Republican stronghold, has reported. In Pulaski County, another Republican locality, 2 of 5 localities have reported. This looks good for Ballard.
7:52 p.m.: McAuliffe leads narrowly in Loudoun County
OK, now we’re finally getting some numbers to chew on out of Loudoun. With 76 of 101 precincts reporting, McAuliffe leads Youngkin 50.3% to 49.17%. That’s obviously not a great showing for McAuliffe. This is, after all, a county that went 59.4% for Ralph Northam four years ago. But what we’re not seeing yet are the early votes. I don’t have a countywide total for Loudoun but precinct-wise, the early vote there ranged from 9.4% in the lowest precinct to 35.1% in the highest precinct. That early vote should favor McAuliffe. Question is: By how much? We still don’t know enough.
7:49 p.m.: “Yes” leads in Pittsylvania tax vote
Pittsylvania County voted today on whether to raise taxes for schools. With 4 of 32 precincts reporting, the “yes” vote has 79.5%. Obviously a lot more voted to be counted there, though.
7:40 p.m. Reminder: We’re seeing a different voting order
Here’s why I’m not persuaded of anything yet. All eyes are on Loudoun County, which has become ground zero for the culture wars over schools — and the governor’s race. We’re getting numbers from Loudoun, but it’s impossible to compare these with previous years because a) so many votes have been cast early and those haven’t been counted yet and b) because Republicans were more enthusiastic about early voting this year than they were last year, that means the early vote will have more Republicans in the electorate and the day-of voting may have fewer. Yet here’s a result: The Mercer precinct has McAuliffe 565, Youngkin 459. That’s the day-of voting. Last year, Trump won the Mercer precinct’s day-of voting. But not even Democrats were predicting McAuliffe would do better than previous Democrats in Loudoun; just a matter of how many votes he could concede. So bottom line: I’m not seeing enough to draw conclusions yet.
7:29: McAuliffe gets his vote in Arlington
The early voters in Arlington went 81.87% for McAuliffe, 17.67% for Youngkin. That’s just a hair off the 85.3% that Biden took in 2020. Now the caveats: This apparently doesn’t include the mail voters, just the in-person early votes. Not sure what this means but there it is.
7:17: p.m. Youngkin runs ahead of 2017 numbers in Oakwood
OK, let’s all obsess over the Oakwood precinct in Buchanan County. It’s often one of the first to report and it just did.
2017: Gillespie 38, Northam 7
2021: Youngkin 46, McAuliffe 11
Now here’s the thing: Those Oakwood numbers don’t include the early voters in that precinct, which will get counted separately as part of the absentee precinct. The early vote in Oakwood was low — 6.7% — but it wasn’t zero. So even without that, Youngkin has run stronger than Gillespie did. Of course, so did McAuliffe, although the net gain is four for the Republicans. If the results tonight turn on four votes, there you have them.
7:05 p.m.: Roanoke County turnout topped 2017; why that matters. Or maybe not.
Here’s more good news for Republicans and bad news for Democrats: By 3 p.m., Roanoke County had already exceeded its total turnout in the governor’s race four years ago. I say that’s good news for Republicans and bad news for Democrats because Roanoke County is a strongly Republican county. Four years ago it voted 61.2% for Republican Ed Gillespie in what otherwise was a Democratic year.
2017 total voters: 33,730
2021 voters as of 3 p.m. (both early voters and day-of combined): 37,605
Now from context: I’m also hearing that vote totals in some heavily Democratic localities in Northern Virginia have exceeded their 2017 vote totals so it’s possible that these higher-than-usual Roanoke County numbers get washed out. Still, if you’re a Republican, you’ve got to feel good that your side got its vote out.
7 p.m.: A consumer advisory for what you’re about to read.
The polls have closed. Stand by for results! If you’re just joining us, here’s some required reading: The returns tonight will arrive in a different order than they ever have before. I explained how here. That will confuse some people, including perhaps me and my fellow election analysts, so beware. The early numbers may look nothing like the final numbers. Or maybe they will. We just don’t know. The Virginia Public Access Project has a very good visual of how this might work.
If you’re looking for the actual returns, I recommend the State Board of Elections website or VPAP (which often displays the numbers in a more reader-friendly way). I’ll be here tonight to draw on four decades (or more) of writing about Virginia politics to offer analysis of what we’re seeing.
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4:39 p.m. Black turnout in Roanoke looks low
Just saw the 3 p.m. turnout figures for Roanoke and the turnout in the city’s Black precincts looks pretty low. That, of course, would be a danger sign for Democrats if those trends continue. Now, we have to remember that a lot of voters have voted early so the day-of numbers aren’t as important as they once were. Still, when you add them together, turnout in the city’s Black precincts looks pretty low. Some examples:
Lincoln Terrace: 8.95% turnout as of 3 p.m.; 15.1% voted early. That’s a total of 24.05% voting so far.
Eureka Park: 10.71% turnout as of 3 p.m.; 20.2% voted early. That’s a total of 30.91% voting early.
Those are both precincts where the Democratic share of the vote in the governor’s race four years ago was 94%.
Now look at the turnout so far in the four precincts in Roanoke that went Republican four years ago.
Eastgate: 19.97% turnout as of 3 p.m.; 17.2% voted early. That’s a total of 37.17%.
Garden City: 25.45% turnout as of 3 p.m.; 13.6% voted early. That’s a total of 39%.
Preston Park: 20.51% turnout as of 3 p.m.; 13.7% voted early. That’s a total of 34.21%.
Southeast: 14.04% turnout as of 3 p.m.; 9.3% voted early. That’s a total of 23.43%.
The total percentages in three of the four Republican precincts are higher than the percentages in the city’s two most predominantly Black precincts. Now that alone doesn’t tell us as much as you might think. Not every precinct votes at the same rate and, without access to the turnout-by-precinct figures four years ago, I can’t make a true apples-to-apples comparison to know where turnout is up and where it’s down, relative to historic trends. But what I do see is that in these precincts, where early voting was low, there seems to be a good day-of turnout. Given these precincts’ voting history, Republicans have got to be encouraged by that. Now, we still have several hours to go before the polls close at 7 p.m., so all this could change, but right now, if I were a Democrat, I’d be concerned about the turnout in the most reliably Democratic precincts.
Some more numbers: Roanoke has two precincts that four years ago were almost evenly split. Democrats took South Roanoke 50.8% to 48.4% and Deyerle by 49.5% to 49.2%. Here are the turnout figures for both of those:
Deyerle: 29.66% turnout as of 3 p.m.; 28.5% voted early. That’s a total of 58.16%.
South Roanoke: 29.95% turnout as of 3 p.m.; 23.7% voted early. That’s a total of 53.65%.
Now, I obviously don’t know how those two precincts will swing this year. And those precincts always vote at higher rates than others in the city (both are affluent neighborhoods, for those not familiar with Roanoke). Still, I present them for context. What I see are some encouraging numbers for Republicans and danger signs for Democrats.
1:03 p.m. Why both parties need a big day-of turnout.
The Virginia Public Access Project has a fascinating precinct-by-precinct look at early voting across the state. Here’s what I notice: The highest and lowest percentages tend to come in Republican precincts. Last year, early voting was a Democratic thing; Republicans under then-President Trump trashed it. This year, under gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, Republicans have embraced it. And in at least some places, Republicans appear to have responded enthusiastically. In other places, not so much.
In the Powhatan A precinct of James City County, 47.4% have voted early. Four years ago, that was a precinct that went to Republican Ed Gillespie with 55% of the vote. In the Heritage Hunt precinct of Prince William County 46.5% voted early this year. Four years ago, that was another precinct that went for Gillespie. In the Berkley C precinct of James City County, 44.6% have voted early. Yep, another Gillespie precinct — even stronger, with 58.5% of the vote. Those appear to be the highest early-voting precincts in the state. Now, we obviously have no idea who has voted early. For all we know, every Democrat in those precinct has already cast a ballot. But the odds are certainly against that. It sure looks like Republicans have voted early there.
On the other hand, the early vote in Southwest Virginia is way low. Lee County went 79.2% for Gillespie four years ago. Youngkin certainly hopes to match that or top that this year. He’ll want to mine every vote he can in Lee County, but he’ll have to do it with today’s turnout. In the Robbins Chapel precinct, only 2.0% voted early. In the Keokee precinct, only 2.5% voted early, in Saint Charles 2.7%. That’s why the county’s state senator — Todd Pillion, R-Washington County — cut a video in the waning days to talk up early voting and why Youngkin spent so much time in Southwest Virginia over the weekend.
Democrats need a big day-of vote, too. I showed below how the early voting trends in the Chris Hurst-Jason Ballard House of Delegates race in the New River valley favor Republicans. And across the state, early voting in predominantly Black precincts, which vote strongly Democratic, has also lagged. In the Roanoke Valley, the highest early-voting precincts are in Republican Roanoke County — Oak Grove at 32.2% and 31.3% in Castle Rock. The lowest, though, is also in a Republican-leaning precinct — Southeast in Roanoke city, which last time went 52.4% for Gillespie.
The biggest early-voting precinct in Southwest and Southside is Pearisburg, in Giles County, where 34.3% voted early. That’s also the home of Republican House candidate Jason Ballard. More on that below:
11:14 a.m.: Hurst cited for driving on suspended license.
I wasn’t going to fire up the live election night analysis until, you know, it’s actually election night but we already have some news. Multiple news outlets are reporting that Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery County, was stopped in Radford last night after a sheriff’s deputy saw a passenger in his car damaging campaign signs belonging to Republican challenger Jason Ballard. Hurst was cited for driving on a suspended license. WFXR-TV was apparently the first to have this. So, too, do WSLS-TV, WDBJ-TV and The Roanoke Times. (Updated, 12:14: Markus Schmidt has now talked to the Radford sheriff; see his story here.) For my first analysis of the day, I’ll go out on a limb and make the bold prediction that this will not be helpful to Hurst’s re-election chances.
Hurst was in trouble already because that district — parts of Montgomery and Pulaski counties, plus Radford and Giles — is a competitive one to begin with. Plus, election analyst Chaz Nuttycomb has pointed out that there have been some important changes in the electorate over the years, with the Montgomery County portion of the district (which is very Democratic) actually losing registered voters while Giles and Pulaski (both very Republican) have gained voters. I wrote more extensively about this in my column this morning. In other words, the electorate there has quietly shifted Republican.
Also of note: The Virginia Public Access Project has a handy-dandy interactive map that shows early voting by precinct. Here’s what I notice when I look at that House district: The highest early-voting percentage is in Pearisburg in Giles County, home of Hurst’s opponent. There, 34.3% have already voted. In other Giles precincts, the figures are 22.6% in Narrows, 21.2% in Pembroke, 20.1% in Staffordsville. Meanwhile in Montgomery, the base for Hurst or any other Democrat, the highest early-voting precinct is at 27.2%. That’s in A1, which is a relatively small precinct, which accounted for only 296 votes last time. Precinct A3, Hurst’s best precinct last time, is at 26.7%. In Precinct E3, the early vote is only 1.4%. Granted, that’s a very small precinct but still . . . Over in Radford, the early vote in two precincts (both Democratic) is 10.2% and 11%.
The point is that Ballard has already banked a lot of his vote; Hurst will need a bigger day-of turnout and this news doesn’t exactly seem the type to inspire a lot of voters to go to the polls on his behalf.