Increase in Republican early voting turnout at polls, still expected to skew Democratic in Virginia

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As Virginia is experiencing a very close election at the local and state level, political experts are weighing in on how early voting will impact each party’s vote.

According to the Virginia Department of Elections, 5.9 million people are registered to vote in the state. WFXR’s sister station’s political analyst Rich Meagher says many have chosen to vote early.

“Now we have almost a million early votes and if the turnout is anything like it was in 2017, it may not be half the votes but it’s close to it,” Meagher said.

Keith Balmer, who is currently the City of Richmond’s Voter Registrar, says the city has 157,000 registered voters and 20,000 residents have cast their ballots in-person and by mail.

On the last day of early voting Saturday, Oct. 30, polling locations were open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In the meantime, Meagher says more Republicans are voting early this year.

“At the same time, Republicans have been raising questions about election integrity for the past couple of years and I think their voters are still wary of voting early,” Meagher said.

According to Meagher, early voting has always been skewed towards the Democratic party, but this year we might see a slight change. Last year, an overwhelming majority of early voters were Democrats.

“This year it’ll probably be closer to an even split,” Meagher said.

He says races are very close this year, not just at the state level, but in a couple of districts.

“I encourage people to be patient. We may not have results immediately and we might even be waiting until Wednesday to see the results of some of these races,” Meagher said. “Here in Virginia we always call election night ‘waiting for Fairfax.’ It’s the biggest county and it just takes a while for them to report their votes so we’re always waiting around to see what the votes are like. Like we saw last year, we might end up waiting around for a while.”

Although the mail-in ballot request deadline and the early voting period has passed, registered voters can still visit a polling location between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Election Day — Tuesday, Nov. 2 — to vote, as long as you bring photo identification.

For more information about where and how to cast a ballot on Election Day in Virginia, click here.

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