signs in Lynchburg
Campaign signs in Lynchburg. Photo by Caroline Glickman.

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How do elections get called? Here’s a primer. And now, onto election updates:

10:07 p.m.: Republicans make some gains but not all they wanted

Time to start wrapping things up here in Virginia. Republicans have scored some victories but not all the ones they hoped for. Jen Kiggans has ousted Democratic incumbent Elaine Luria in the 2nd Congressional District in Hampton Roads but Democrat Abigail Spanberger appears to have held on in the 7th oh so narrowly, and Democrat Jennifer Wexton has held on the the 10th Congressional District in Northern Virginia.

In municipal elections, Republicans have swept Lynchburg City Council to gain control for the first time since 1998 and a Republican candidate has won in Salem, where candidates traditionally run as independents. But a spirited Republican campaign fell short in Roanoke, with Democrats once again sweeping. Some history there, too: Roanoke will now have a council with no straight white men on council. Three gay men and a Latina won election today.

Nationally things may take a while to sort themselves out tonight — or in the days ahead in some cases — but that’s the picture here in Virginia.

10:01 p.m. Spanberger pulls ahead

With 98% of the vote in, Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger has pulled ahead in the 7th Congressional District as the vote in Prince William County, a Democratic stronghold, comes in. Right now she leads by about 5,000 votes. What’s still out: One precinct in Prince William County, the absentees in Prince William, plus the mail-in votes in all the localities. She’ll probably pull this out.

9:30 p.m.: Pittsylvania school tax passes

With 31 of 32 precincts reporting, it’s 12,294 for the “yes” side, 11,364 for the “no” side — 52% to 48%.

9:25 p.m. Vega’s lead in 7th slips

The closest congressional race in Virginia is in the 7th District. Republican challenger Yesli Vega holds a slim lead over Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger — 50.68% to 49.14$. As noted earlier, the main vote still out is from Prince William County — which is going 64% for Spanberger. The question is whether there’s enough vote still out there to put her over the top. Nail-biter.

9:16 p.m. Democrats now likely to pull off council sweep in Roanoke

Democrat Peter Volosin has now pulled back in front of the two Republicans who were vying for the third and final council slot in Roanoke. With 22 of 23 precincts in, it looks like a Democratic sweep. Joe Cobb and Vivian Sanchez-Jones have long led the balloting, but now Volosin is more securely in third place, 340 votes ahead of Republican Nick Hagen. In the special election, Democrat Luke Priddy leads Republican McGuire 55% to 45% with just one precinct out.

9:14 p.m. Alleghany, Covington, Lexington, Southampton all want to elect school boards

Referenda to switch from appointed to elected school boards are winning by landslide margins in all four places.

9:09 p.m. Republicans on verge of Lynchburg council sweep

With 19 of 21 precincts in, Republicans lead all three seats for Lynchburg city council, which would give the council its first Republican majority since 1998. Just 66 votes separate the third-place Republican candidate, Marty Misjuns, from the fourth-place candidate, Democrat Treney Tweedy, so we need to wait on those last two precincts.

8:55 p.m. A good night for Republicans

Whatever happens, this appears to be shaping up as a good night for Republicans.

8:34 p.m. What’s out in the 7th

The 7th Congressional District race has been tightening. Republican challenger Yesli Vega still leads over Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger, 53% to 47%. We have 87% of the vote in but what’s still outstanding is largely from Prince William County, where a) Spanberger is winning 64% and b) Vega is from. So nobody’s calling this one yet and that’s why.

8:25 p.m. Salem on verge of electing 2020 election skeptic

In Salem, it’s tradition for candidates for council to run as independents. Hunter Holliday bucked that tradition this year, running as an avowed Republican. He’s also a 2020 election skeptic — not sure he could be classified as an election denier, but he did attend the Stop the Steal rally. Anyway, he appears to be on the verge of winning a seat — with former Mayor Randy Foley being the odd man out.

With 10 of 13 precincts counted, Holliday leads with 2,436 votes, with incumbent John Saunders at 1,862 and Foley at 1,825. Another challenger, Anne Marie Green, is further back at 1,744. The top two win.

8:22 p.m. Augusta County will move courthouse to Verona

With 26 of 31 precincts in, it’s a landslide so far: 86% voting for the Verona site over downtown Staunton.

8:16 p.m. Three-way fight for final council slot in Roanoke

This is a dogfight for that last spot. As previously reported, Democrats Joe Cobb and Vivian Sanchez-Jones have solid leads for the first two available at-large seats. But Democratic ticket-mate Peter Volosin is having trouble. Right now, two Republicans are slightly ahead of him:

Nick Hagen 4,347

Dalton Baugess 4,342

Peter Volosin 4,323

This one’s going to the wire. We now have 15 of 23 precincts in and, as noted before, the ones left could go either way.

8:10 p.m. Republicans eye winning a seat on Roanoke City Council

With about half the precincts in Roanoke reporting, Republicans have a chance of winning a seat on council for the first time since 2000.

With 13 of 23 precincts reporting, Democrats Joe Cobb and Vivian Sanchez-Jones have solid leads for the first two available at-large seats, but Democrat Peter Volosin and Republican Dalton Baugess are locked in a tight race for the third spot.

Right now, Volosin has 3,660 votes, Baugess 3,622 votes.

The question is: What votes are outstanding? They appear to be a mix of precincts, some likely Democratic, some likely Republican, so this one could go either way.

7:55 p.m. ‘Yes’ vote on Pittsylvania school tax running slightly ahead of last year

Last year Pittsylvania County voters barely rejected a proposed tax increase for schools — by 32 votes. This year, it’s back on the ballot. Early returns show the “yes” side ahead, but what catches my eyes are the comparisons, precinct-by-precinct, with last year. Generally, the “yes” side is doing a little bit better than last year, the “no” vote not as good.

For instance:

Last year, the Bachelor’s Hall precinct said no, 50..57% to 49.43%. This year, Bachelor’s Hall has said yes, by 53.9% to 46.1%. Lots of votes yet to be counted by these consistent trends bode well for the “yes” side right now.

And then we have a big swing in Tunstall. Last year it was yes with 51.93%. This year, it’s yes with 58.08%.

7:39 p.m. Early signs of Republican strength in Lynchburg

The big question in Lynchburg is whether Republicans will win the city council for the first time since 1998. We have just one precinct in, so that’s not much to go on, but here’s a potential trend. This is the central absentee precinct and it’s gone strongly Democratic, with congressional candidate Josh Throneburg taking 60.54%.

What I notice, though, is the the weakest Democratic candidatefor council — Patrick Earl — has barely finished ahead of the strongest Republican candidate. The votes:

Tweedy 2,707

Beau Wright 2,182

Earl 1,864

Taylor 1,825

Reed 1,808

Misjuns 1,442

Virgil Wright 659

Does this portend good news for Republicans as other precincts come in?

7:37 p.m. Griffith now under 80%

We now have 21% of the vote in the 9th District in and Rep. Morgan Griffith’s vote share has “fallen” to 77%. Will he stay there or get back up over 80%? Stay tuned.

7:33 p.m. Should Democrats be worried about Spanberger?

With 21% of the vote in, Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger is trailing badly against Republican Yesli Vega — 60.7% for Vega, 38.97% for Spanberger. Here’s what both sides need to keep in mind: These votes are coming from Republican areas. The big Democratic localities in the 7th District — such as Fredericksburg and Prince William County — haven’t reported yet. Typically, less-populated rural areas always report first because they have fewer votes to count, so that often means a big Republican lead early on. Still, everyone agrees this one is a hot one, so keep your eyes on the 7th.

7:28 p.m. Will Griffith top 80%?

With 17% of the vote in, Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, is pulling 82.59% inthe 9th Congressional District. There aren’t too many places in that district for Democrats to go for votes these days. That number could come down. But will it? In last year’s gubernatorial election, a bunch of Southwest Virginia counties went 80% or more Republican.

Griffith has never polled more than 72% (in 2014) in a contested race and generally has been in the 60% range. Is this the year he joins the 80% club?

7:19 p.m. No, this isn’t gerrymandering

If I were a sports official, I’d be blowing a whistle right now on a misleading tweet. Yes, I realize if I did that for every one I’d have no breath yet, but I can’t help but address this tweet that I gather comes from a Democrat:

we JUST got FORCED REDISTRICTING To make REd areas LARGER due to changing demographic in the peripheral going BLUE. We vote our hearts out, and we cannot change the #Gerrymandering . they did this to #spanberger . took her from us #Virginia

Umm, no. Yes, redistricting is forced in the sense that it’s mandated every decade to comply with one-person, one-vote rules. And yes, conservative districts became bigger — but they became bigger geographically. All the districts drawn by the special masters appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court start off the same population. And, as I’ve pointed out before, they’re actually pretty logically drawn.

7:14 p.m. We have our first numbers

The first numbers of the evening — at least that I’ve seen — come from the 7th Congressional District. Specifically, the Three West precinct in Orange County. Last year, Republican Glenn Youngkin took 65% there. Today, Republican Yesli Vega has taken 72% against Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger. It’s unclear if these are ALL the numbers, or just the in-person voters (which are expected to trend Republican). So I’d advise against jumping to any conclusions. But I always like to note the first numbers.

7 p.m. The polls have closed*

The polls have now closed across Virginia, except in Blackstone in Nottoway County where, as previously reported, a judge ordered them to stay open until 8 p.m. to make up for an hour’s delay this morning when pollbooks weren’t working. Conspiracy theorists, be still: Nottoway County voted Republican last year, so if extended hours boost turnout there, it likely will be on the Republican side by a smidge. Anyway, now we wait for actual numbers. Get your pizza ready.

I’ll be here to offer commentary as the numbers come in and the whole Cardinal News reporting staff (double its size from a year ago, thanks to generous donors) is on board to post stories when we have finals. If you’re looking for live numbers, the best place go to is the State Board of Elections website — that’s where we’ll be looking. We also recommend the Virginia Public Access Project, which also makes use of Associated Press numbers. Keep in mind sometimes numbers don’t match until everything’s in.

4:45 p.m. Voting in Blackstone extended until 8 p.m.

Election Day seems to be passing in Virginia with no unusual problems in this part of the state. In a few localities — Chesterfield County, Nottoway County, Richmond and Suffolk — electronic pollbooks didn’t work so voting officials had to switch to their printed back-ups. Advisory: These problems always happen and, as someone who works with computers all day, I am sympathetic. Technology often just doesn’t work right. In response, Nottoway County Circuit Court Judge Paul Cella has signed an order to extend the voting in the Blackstone precinct by one hour — until 8 p.m. — to make up for the problems this morning. Otherwise, polls across the state will close at their regular hour of 7 p.m. Anyone in line at that time is allowed to vote.

At one precinct in Wythe County (Spiller Elementary in Wytheville), power went out, slowing the voting by about 10 minutes until a generator was fired up. Power has since been restored, state election officials said in a 4 p.m. briefing.

1:20 p.m. Opposing sides make friends in Roanoke.

Liz Viar, R Tami Amos, I SarAh Frame, R Robin Barnhill, D
Liz Viar, R Tami Amos, I Sarah Frame, R Robin Barnhill, D. Photo by Luanne Rife.

Here’s how things are going in Roanoke: Pollworkers from different sides are making friends with one another. These women were campaigning for different candidates outside the Lee-Hi precinct in Roanoke. Cardinal executive director Luanne Rife, who shot this photo, reports: “They joked they are even planning a vacation together. And wished that everyone could have as much fun getting to know people who are campaigning for their opponents.”

Yancey is editor of Cardinal News. His opinions are his own. You can reach him at