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More Fodder for Turnout Debate

Amy Gardner

Will turnout in the Democratic gubernatorial primary June 9 be low? high? And who benefits? If it's all activists, the theory goes, Brian Moran gains an edge. If a broader electorate shows up, perhaps that's to Terry McAuliffe's advantage, since his message is reaching the most Virginians on radio and TV. If the rural parts vote more, that might be to Creigh Deeds' advantage.

Here's some new corn feed to throw into the trough.

In Arlington, political numbers-cruncher Frank O'Leary (the county treasurer by day) is pretty excited that absentee balloting is on a trajectory to exceed past primary elections (excluding last year's historic presidential contest).

O'Leary observes that 124 absentee ballots have been cast in Arlington, compared to past primaries, when, by the comparable date, the following numbers of absentee ballots had been submitted: 17 (2007), 30 (2006), 52 (2004) and 27 (2003).

The numbers are so small as to leave one wondering about their significance. But there are some other signs that turnout will exceed past Democratic primaries. Statewide, as of May 20, 6,617 absentee ballot applications had been submitted, already more than voted altogether in the 2005 Democratic primary -- and we've still got nearly three weeks to go.

Then there's the question of who benefits. The conventinal wisdom for weeks has been that high turnout favors McAuliffe, who is spending more money getting his message out than his competitors -- and is preparing a 95-county (that's all of them) get-out-the-vote effort likened (by me) to the invasion of Normandy.

But high turnout in places like Arlington could boost Moran's chances for a win, depending on whether those voting are party activists or regular folk. And heavy voting in rural Virginia could benefit Deeds because he is the most conservative of the three and the only candidate not from Northern Virginia.

Back to O'Leary's analysis of Arlington: He notes that absentee balloting is also on a trajectory to represent a larger share of the overall vote than in past primaries (again, excluding the presidential primary last year). This could be significant for November, when Democrats might finally be ready to challenge Republicans' traditional dominance of absentee balloting.

By Amy Gardner  |  May 24, 2009; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Amy Gardner , Election 2009  
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Next: Romney's Whirlwind Weekend in Va


Whatever the practical answer, this is a scandal. There are so many undemocratic things about America, but the Virginia scheduling of its governor races on an off-year is one of the most inexcusible. The political stratum has the smugness of the bankers of the last decade, but the alienation level is so high that it is quite dangerous if the economy does not start moving up as very, very few sophisticated people really believe it will.

Posted by: jhough1 | May 24, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Just wanted to note that for years Virginia was "controlled" by the Byrd "machine". They all became Republicans. This election we have the opportunity to let the Democrats try and repair years of problems. I believe Terry McAuliffe is the gubernatorial candidate who can have the most positive impact on Virginia and is the candidate who can work with other folks running for the House of Delegates to turn it Democratic. Just give the Democrats 2 years and there will be another election. If the Democrats don't start to produce, Virginia can always go back to the past. It's up to you Virginia voter.

Posted by: Willis3 | May 24, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm tired of this: " the most conservative".

Aznew at VA Democrat outlines Creigh's progressive record.

Posted by: rgshaw | May 24, 2009 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Arlington County has a hotly contested delegate primary going on in 1/2 the County. That race will determine who wins that race in November. That will drive the numbers in Arlington.

It's hard to argue that has anything to do with statewide primary turnout.

The more interesting question is what's going on in the Arlington precincts with no delegate primary. Those post doesn't say anything about that.

Posted by: FederalGraphics | May 25, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Please turn out June 9th and send the carpetbagger packing back to the Commonwealth of McLean. That's Terry "Global Crossing" McAuliffe, if you're not paying attention. The only candidate who wants to repeal the term limit for Governor. Sic Semper Tyrannis!

Posted by: biffgrifftheoneandonly | May 25, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Biffgriff - where are you getting your absurd information?

Moran isn't from here either.

Posted by: demfuture2000 | May 26, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

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