Early voting gets underway Friday across Virginia for the Nov. 7 legislative elections, which will decide political control of the state’s currently divided General Assembly.
Every seat in both the House of Delegates and state Senate will be on the ballot.
“We’re encouraging everybody to get off the sidelines and go vote early,” Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in an interview with WTOP. “It’s the most important right that we have in our great democracy, which is to elect our leaders.”
The early voting period lasts for 45 days.
Starting Friday, voters will be able to cast a ballot in person or request that a ballot be mailed to them.
“Oftentimes, something happens on Election Day where you have a sick child or you might be sick yourself or something happens at work and you miss it,” said Youngkin. “There’s no better way to ensure that your vote is counted then to go ahead and cast it early when you have a chance.”
The Virginia House is currently controlled by the GOP with 50 Republicans, 46 Democrats and four vacancies.
Of the 40 seats in the Senate, there are 22 Democrats and 18 Republicans.
“This is another moment where the nation’s got their eyes on Virginia, and I think folks are looking to see how voters respond to that,” said Youngkin.
Youngkin has made it clear that one of his main political priorities is to work toward flipping the Democratic-controlled Senate. In order to do that, Republicans would need to flip two seats currently held by Democrats.
That would force a 20-20 tie in the chamber that could be broken by Republican Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears.
If the Republicans flip the Senate, Youngkin would have the power to implement a more conservative agenda, including a ban on most abortions after 15 weeks (3.5 months) of pregnancy, which Youngkin has repeatedly said he would support.
“I actually believe that there is far more unity around this issue,” said Youngkin. “Coming together around 15 weeks is a place folks feel like they can land, so I’m encouraged by that.”
Democratic lawmakers in Virginia’s Senate have successfully voted down legislation that would put limits on abortion.
The November election will be the first general election in Virginia under the newly-redrawn district boundaries from the end of 2021.
“All the district lines got reshuffled,” said Alex Keena, a political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Many incumbents got placed into entirely new districts, and many new districts were created that didn’t contain any incumbents.”
According to Keena, the General Assembly “will look completely different” after November.
“For all these reasons, it’s really hard to predict how the cards will fall,” Keena said.