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Democrats seeing high absentee turnout in 5th district primary

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Absentee ballots for the upcoming Democratic primary are up in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, compared to another recent Democratic primary.

“Anything in a presidential year usually gathers more attention from voters,” said Peggy Petty, Danville’s General Registrar.

Petty says it’s been decades since the last competitive Democratic primary for the 5th, so WFXR compared this election’s absentee numbers to the 2017 Democratic primary for governor.

In Danville, the number of absentee Democratic ballots turned in in 2017 was 108. By Tuesday morning, 144 absentee ballots were cast for next week’s Democratic primary with another 192 still out there in voters’ homes.

The pandemic changed everything. Petty sees a reason why: a rule change that made absentee voting easier.

“Basically the allowance of everyone using 2A due to the pandemic, basically turned it into no excuse voting.”

Candidate John Lesinski says Democrats are particularly motivated.

“We have two pandemics, really,” he said. “We have a health pandemic around COVID-19, and then we have a racial injustice pandemic, and I think it’s really inspired and it’s really motivated a lot of Democrats.”

There’s a similar trend in Charlottesville. Three years ago, 947 absentee ballots were cast three years ago.

So far, according to the registrar, about 3,000 ballots have come back out of about 5,500 requests.

“We’ve certainly been encouraging people to vote absentee,” said Lesinski, “but we certainly want to make it known that the polls will be open, and that opportunity certainly will be open to you as well.”

Lesinski was the only candidate who responded for this story.

We will feature the other three candidates as they respond to our request.

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