Election Day in Virginia: What happened Tuesday at the polls

Polls in Virginia closed at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, and with a new change in state law, election officials should be able to tally votes faster than in previous years.

In addition to choosing the commonwealth’s next governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, voters will also weigh in on the entire House of Delegates. Currently, Democrats have a 10-seat advantage over Republicans, 55-45.

Voters are on edge and the country is watching, as the Virginia gubernatorial election between former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and businessman Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, are said to be in a tight race.

CHANTILLY, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks during an election-night rally at the Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles on November 02, 2021 in Chantilly, Virginia. Virginians went to the polls Tuesday to vote in the gubernatorial race that pitted Youngkin against Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CHANTILLY, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin shoots an autographed basketball into the crowd with his family at an election-night rally at the Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles on November 02, 2021 in Chantilly, Virginia. Virginians went to the polls Tuesday to vote in the gubernatorial race that pitted Youngkin against Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CHANTILLY, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin and his wife Suzanne kiss as they take the stage at an election-night rally at the Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles on November 02, 2021 in Chantilly, Virginia. Virginians went to the polls Tuesday to vote in the gubernatorial race that pitted Youngkin against Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CHANTILLY, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin and his family take the stage at an election-night rally at the Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles on November 02, 2021 in Chantilly, Virginia. Virginians went to the polls Tuesday to vote in the gubernatorial race that pitted Youngkin against Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin arrives to speak at an election night party in Chantilly, Va., early Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, after he defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

CHANTILLY, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin takes the stage at an election-night rally at the Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles on November 02, 2021 in Chantilly, Virginia. Virginians went to the polls Tuesday to vote in the gubernatorial race that pitted Youngkin against Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CHANTILLY, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin (R) takes a photo with (L-R) Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL), Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK) during a watch party on election night at the Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles on November 02, 2021 in Chantilly, Virginia. Virginians went to the polls Tuesday to vote in the gubernatorial race that pits Youngkin against Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Supporters of Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin wait for him to speak on election night in Chantilly, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The stage is set before Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks on election night in Chantilly, Va.,Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

CHANTILLY, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin and his staff watch results come in on election night at the Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles on November 02, 2021 in Chantilly, Virginia. Virginians went to the polls Tuesday to vote in the gubernatorial race that pits Youngkin against Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

CHANTILLY, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin (2nd-L) and his wife Suzanne (L) talk to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his wife Heidi, during an election night watch party at the Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles on November 02, 2021 in Chantilly, Virginia. Virginians went to the polls Tuesday to vote in the gubernatorial race that pits Youngkin against Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe gestures as he speaks at an election night party in McLean, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Voters are deciding between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

MCLEAN, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks at his election night rally on November 02, 2021 in McLean, Virginia. Virginians went to the polls Tuesday to vote in the gubernatorial race that pits McAuliffe against Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin. Also pictured is current Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

MCLEAN, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks at his election night rally on November 02, 2021 in McLean, Virginia. Virginians went to the polls Tuesday to vote in the gubernatorial race that pits McAuliffe against Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

MCLEAN, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Supporters listen as Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks at his election night rally on November 02, 2021 in McLean, Virginia. Virginians went to the polls Tuesday to vote in the gubernatorial race that pits McAuliffe against Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe prepares to speak at an election night party in McLean, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Voters are deciding between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, right, and his wife, Dorothy, wave to the crowd as he makes an appearance at an election night party in McLean, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Voters are deciding between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, right, hugs his wife, Dorothy, as he makes an appearance at an election night party in McLean, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Voters are deciding between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Supporters of Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin wait for him to speak on election night in Chantilly, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Fairfax County, Virginia, residents line up to vote early Tuesday. (WTOP/John Domen)

A man casts his vote in Fairfax County, Virginia. (WTOP/John Domen)

Residents vote at Liberty Elementary School in South Riding. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Voters in Fairfax County. (WTOP/Kristi King)

An image of sample Virginia ballots captured on Nov. 2, 2021. (WTOP/Kristi King)

A Republican canvasser hands out sample ballots at the republican booth outside the Fairfax County Government Center polling location on election day in Fairfax, Virginia, on November 2, 2021. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

A man waits to cast his ballot at George Marshall High School on election day in Falls Church, Virginia on November 2, 2021 – With the eyes of America watching, Virginians cast their ballots Tuesday as the state chooses its next governor in a margin-of-error skirmish seen as the first major test of President Joe Biden’s political brand. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Voters wait for their ballots at a school cafeteria being used as a polling location on election day in McLean, Virginia on November 2, 2021. – With the eyes of America watching, Virginians cast their ballots Tuesday as the state chooses its next governor in a margin-of-error skirmish seen as the first major test of President Joe Biden’s political brand. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

A voter collects a sample ballot from a democratic canvasser outside a polling location on election day in McLean, Virginia on November 2, 2021. – With the eyes of America watching, Virginians cast their ballots Tuesday as the state chooses its next governor in a margin-of-error skirmish seen as the first major test of President Joe Biden’s political brand. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Voters wait for their ballots at George Marshall High School on election day in Falls Church, Virginia on November 2, 2021. – With the eyes of America watching, Virginians cast their ballots Tuesday as the state chooses its next governor in a margin-of-error skirmish seen as the first major test of President Joe Biden’s political brand. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

A voter fills in her ballot as her child tries to put a snack on a table at a school cafeteria being used as a polling location on election day in McLean, Virginia on November 2, 2021. – With the eyes of America watching, Virginians cast their ballots Tuesday as the state chooses its next governor in a margin-of-error skirmish seen as the first major test of President Joe Biden’s political brand. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

A man votes at George Marshall High School, being used as a polling location, on election day in Falls Church, Virginia on November 2, 2021. – With the eyes of America watching, Virginians cast their ballots Tuesday as the state chooses its next governor in a margin-of-error skirmish seen as the first major test of President Joe Biden’s political brand. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman waits to cast her ballot at George Marshall High School, being used as a polling location, on election day in Falls Church, Virginia on November 2, 2021. – With the eyes of America watching, Virginians cast their ballots Tuesday as the state chooses its next governor in a margin-of-error skirmish seen as the first major test of President Joe Biden’s political brand. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

A man waits to cast his ballot at George Marshall High School on election day in Falls Church, Virginia on November 2, 2021. – With the eyes of America watching, Virginians cast their ballots Tuesday as the state chooses its next governor in a margin-of-error skirmish seen as the first major test of President Joe Biden’s political brand. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman waits to cast her ballot at George Marshall High School, being used as a polling location, on election day in Falls Church, Virginia on November 2, 2021. – With the eyes of America watching, Virginians cast their ballots Tuesday as the state chooses its next governor in a margin-of-error skirmish seen as the first major test of President Joe Biden’s political brand. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman gets a voting sticker after casting her ballot at George Marshall High School on election day in Falls Church, Virginia on November 2, 2021. – With the eyes of America watching, Virginians cast their ballots Tuesday as the state chooses its next governor in a margin-of-error skirmish seen as the first major test of President Joe Biden’s political brand. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin greets a voter outside of a voting location in the Rocky Run Middle School on November 02, 2021 in Chantilly, Virginia. Virginia’s gubernatorial race pits Youngkin against Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe rallies supporters at a Canvass Kickoff event on November 02, 2021 in Falls Church, Virginia. Virginia and New Jersey hold off-year elections today in the first major elections since U.S. President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020. Virginia’s gubernatorial race pits Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin against Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Bob Wood, moves signs to another location, as voters arrive to cast the their ballots on Election Day at city hall, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021 in Alexandria, Va. Voters are deciding between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin for Governor. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Voters head to the polls at a school in Midlothian, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Voters are deciding between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin for Governor. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Voters arrive to cast the their ballots on Election Day at City Hall, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021 in Alexandria, Va. Voters are deciding between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin for governor. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Voters hold their ballots as they wait in line to register their votes at a school in Midlothian, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Voters are deciding between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin for Governor. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe rallies supporters at a Canvass Kickoff event on November 02, 2021 in Falls Church, Virginia. Virginia and New Jersey hold off-year elections today in the first major elections since U.S. President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020. Virginia’s gubernatorial race pits Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin against Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

CHANTILLY, VIRGINIA – NOVEMBER 02: Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin plays basketball near a voting location in the Rocky Run Middle School on November 02, 2021 in Chantilly, Virginia. Virginia’s gubernatorial race pits Youngkin against Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

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A Loudoun County voter said, “No matter what happens, there’s going to be a camp of people that’s going to be very upset.”

As soon as the polls close at 7 p.m., local election offices may begin tallying absentee ballots and in-person voting figures because of the new election law.

As of 4 p.m., local election officials began to give updates on turnout. Fairfax County reporting a 49% turnout, Loudoun County reporting 45% turnout and the City of Alexandria reporting 51% turnout.

At an 11 a.m. news conference on Tuesday, State Election Commissioner Christopher Piper said 20% of the electorate had already voted.  And by Monday at 3:30 p.m., 72% of the absentee ballots had been returned.

“We have more than 5.9 million voters registered for this election,” Piper said at the press conference when he gave an update on Virginia’s gubernatorial election that has garnered national attention. “As of this morning, 1,167,659 Virginians have already cast their ballots.”

Piper said 862,927 voters cast early ballots in person, and 306,662 voted by absentee ballot.

What voters are saying

Fairfax County voter Parker Singh said voting Tuesday was the only thing on his mind.

“I want to continue to have some progress on the way in which our state has been working across economic issues, education issues. Those two are front and center at what I’m looking for, and the progress we’ve made with COVID,” Singh said.

Lexi Smith, a mother, said policies relating to COVID-19 led her to the polls.

Voter Kathy Dowd, a retired teacher, said she had to vote today in order to stop “this country’s democracy from being overtaken by crazy people.”

Education was at the forefront for Dowd. She said while the issue is always a political football, this year people are obsessing about it.

“People are obsessing about this whole critical race theory. I wish they would do their due diligence and see what that really means,” she said.

“What it means is let’s really talk about American history. If we’re a melting pot, let’s talk about why. And if we are truly interested in what built this county, let’s not leave out most of the people who built it.”

In Alexandria, voters who already made it to the polls said they had strong reasons for showing up to vote.

“It’s a very important election. I saw this one as pivotal, so I’m here,” Alexandria resident Alberta said.

Chris McMurray said he was voting to protect democracy. “It’s at risk right now. It’s really important to vote.”

One voter, David Osinksi, said it was his civic duty to vote.

“I’m looking for a balance, especially in some of the races where I could pick multiple people. I didn’t want to go on only one issue across the board. I’d prefer a balance in the leadership of both the school board and the city council,” he said.

This year, he’s also experienced more door-knocking than usual, he said.

“I feel like the campaigning is more grassroots than it has been in the past,” he said. “It’s helpful.”

Earl Durand said he feels more informed during this election.

“This year we’ve seen better preparation for voting than I’ve seen in previous years. We’ve received good literature, good insight and we feel we’re far better prepared to vote our intentions, perhaps than in previous years,” Durand said alongside his wife, Linda.

No major polling problems

The elections commissioner reported no major in-person voting issues on Tuesday, so far.

“It’s been pretty quiet,” Piper, the state election commissioner, said before listing a few incidents at polling precincts that appeared to be low-level issues.

In Loudoun County, the government phones were offline, but they were up and running by 11 a.m., when Piper spoke. A precinct in Henrico County opened 10 minutes late due to a medical situation, and there was a reported power outage at Spring Run Elementary School in Chesterfield County.

But Piper said not to worry: Voting machines and electronic poll books have battery backups, so voters can continue to cast ballots. And provisional ballots are also always available to any voter.

A tight race

On Monday night, both gubernatorial candidates, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and businessman Glenn Youngkin, ended their campaigns in Northern Virginia. The race has been considered neck and neck for weeks now.

Over the course of his campaign, McAuliffe brought in heavyweights to bring out the Democratic base, including President Joe Biden and former president Barack Obama, while former president Donald Trump hosted a brief tele-rally Monday to bring out Republicans. However, Youngkin has been careful not to associate himself too closely with Trump during the campaign.



Who’s on the ballot?

The three statewide offices — governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general — are on the ballot, as is the entire 100-member House of Delegates.

Follow the links below for interviews with each candidate by WTOP’s Nick Iannelli.

Governor

Lieutenant Governor

Attorney General

You can find the House of Delegates races, local races and ballot questions for your city or county in WTOP’s Virginia voter guide.

When do we find out who won?

It shouldn’t take as long as it did last year.

The law in Virginia used to say that all absentee, early and mail-in ballots in a city or county were handled last, and all together. With the surge in absentee voting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, that meant last year, a boatload of ballots were waiting until the end of the night to be processed and counted.

The General Assembly changed the law this year, so that local registrars start processing (not counting) these ballots at least seven days before Election Day and counting before the polls close.

Different jurisdictions might do things differently, but Arlington, for example, said Monday that they’ll be breaking up their results so that early in-person ballot counts will be released first, right after the polls close, they hope. Then they’ll release the results from the mail ballots that arrived through Sunday, then the in-person Election Day ballots. They’re hoping to have it wrapped up around 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Again, though: Mail ballots can come in, and people can shore up their provisional ballots, up to Friday at 5 p.m. So it may not be a long night, but if a race is really close, it could be a long week.

WTOP’s John Domen contributed reporting from Alexandria and Kristi King contributed from Fairfax County.

Glynis Kazanjian

Glynis Kazanjian has been a freelance writer covering Maryland politics and government on the local, state and federal levels for the last 11 years. Her work is published in Maryland Matters, the Baltimore Post Examiner, Bethesda Beat and Md. Reporter. She has also worked as a true crime researcher.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital reporter and editor in June 2018. He is a writer and photojournalist focusing on politics, political activism and national affairs, with recent multimedia contributions to Reuters, MSNBC and PBS.

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