Believe It or Not, Turnout Was Up in Virginia

Virginia's governor's race earlier this month was a blowout election in which one party was supposedly deeply demoralized. But, based on the most ...
by | November 25, 2009

Virginia's governor's race earlier this month was a blowout election in which one party was supposedly deeply demoralized. But, based on the most relevant metric, turnout was actually up.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Virginia officials have revised and extended their election results:

RICHMOND, Va. - The results stayed the same, but the turnout grew after a certification of the Nov. 3 elections by the State Board of Elections yesterday.

A total of 2,168,574 Virginians voted, or 43.76 percent of the registered voters. Early reports showed the turnout at about 40 percent. The turnout was slightly less than the 45 percent in 2005, but because more people are registered, about 168,000 more people voted than four years ago.

Reflecting the strong Republican vote and the weak Democratic vote, the turnout in Virginia's counties was 45.47 percent, while in the cities it was 39.81 percent.

So, we have a split decision. More Virginians voted than four years ago, but a smaller percentage of registered voters showed up.

As I have argued (and many others before me have argued), however, neither of those standards is the best way to judge turnout. Instead, if you're going to pick only one way to evaluate turnout, the number to look at is the percentage of the voting-eligible population that showed up.

By my estimate, these revised figures mean that just over 39% of voting-eligible Virginians cast ballots this year. That's higher than 2001 or 2005, Virginia's last two gubernatorial election years. That suggests to me that the story of the election was just as much enthused Republicans as it was demoralized Democrats.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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