Who’s on the Ballot, How Voting Works, and What to Watch for in Virginia’s Elections | National Review

Who’s on the Ballot, How Voting Works, and What to Watch for in Virginia’s Elections | National Review

Campaign signs for Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin stand together on the last day of early voting in the Virginia gubernatorial election in Fairfax, Va., October 30, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

In Virginia, every year is an election year. In addition to voting in federal elections in even-number years like the rest of the country, Virginia’s elections for state-level offices are held in odd-number years. This year, voters will cast ballots for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. Each of those offices has four-year terms. Governors are not allowed to run for consecutive terms, but lieutenant governors and attorneys general are. The current attorney general, Democrat Mark Herring, is running for this third consecutive term. Each of the executive-branch elections is separate, so it is possible for different parties to win each one. In 2001, Democrats won governor and lieutenant governor, but a Republican won attorney general. In 2005, a Democrat won governor, and Republicans won lieutenant governor and attorney general. Republicans won all three in 2009, and Democrats won all three in 2013 and 2017.

Virginians will also vote for the House of Delegates, the lower house of the Virginia General Assembly. Delegates serve two-year terms. There are 100 seats in the House of Delegates, and Democrats currently outnumber Republicans 55–45. The Virginia Senate is not up this cycle. Senators serve four-year terms, and their last elections were held in 2019. There are 40 seats in the Senate, and Democrats have a slim 21–19 majority. The lieutenant governor is president of the Senate and, in the event of a 20–20 tie, would cast the deciding vote. But no matter what happens today, Democrats will have a one-seat majority in the Senate.

There are also local offices on the ballot like town council, school board, and mayor. Those vary by locality.

The official statewide candidate list can be found here. The official local candidate list can be found here.

Election Day In-Person Voting

Virginia polls are open today from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern Time. Voters in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

Virginia requires proof of identification to vote. A list of acceptable forms of ID can be found here.

Absentee Voting

Any Virginia registered voter could vote by mail if he or she submitted a ballot request on or before October 22. Witness signatures are required for absentee ballots. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by today and received by noon on Friday, November 5 to be counted. Voters can also drop off their absentee ballots themselves at designated drop-off locations by 7 p.m. today. A full explanation of absentee voting can be found here.

Early In-Person Voting

The early in-person voting window for Virginia is from 45 days before Election Day until the Saturday before Election Day. This year, that window was from September 17 to October 30. The same ID requirements apply as on Election Day.


Virginia does not allow same-day registration. Voters must be registered at least 22 days before Election Day to be eligible to vote. This year’s registration deadline was October 12.

Other Notes

  • The general lay of the land electorally for major population centers is as follows:
    • Richmond, Arlington, Norfolk, and Alexandria are deep blue.
    • Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties are the archetypal suburban counties that used to vote Republican but now vote Democratic. However, Fairfax is significantly more blue than Prince William, and Prince William is slightly more blue than Loudoun. If Youngkin is splitting Loudoun 50–50 or only losing it by a few points, he will be feeling very good.
    • Other suburban counties to watch are Chesterfield and Henrico, near Richmond. If Youngkin can win Chesterfield comfortably and be close in Henrico, he will be feeling very good.
    • Virginia Beach is evenly split. It voted for the Democrat by 52–47 in 2017, and the Republican by 48-46 in 2013. If Youngkin can take a clear lead in Virginia Beach, he will be feeling very good.
    • The bulk of the state’s counties are sparsely populated and deep red. They are strongly pro-Trump and more religious than the other parts of the state.
  • The winning Republican strategy is to run up the score in the rural parts of the state with high turnout to offset the Democratic areas while remaining palatable enough to suburban voters to not lose them in a landslide. It is a balance that has proven very difficult to strike.
  • Fairfax County is by far the state’s most populous, with over 1 million residents. It also takes the longest to report results on Election Day. This has been the case for every election in recent memory, so if it happens tonight, it won’t be unusual.
  • Early and absentee votes will be reported first. Expect McAuliffe to win those by a significant margin. As the Election Day results come in, Youngkin should chip away. This is especially true since McAuliffe was five points ahead of Youngkin when early voting started, and most polls show the race tied today.

Something to Consider

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Dominic Pino is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at National Review Institute.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.