Virginia Votes -- Election Day 2017

As Virginians went to the polls to select the next governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, as well as candidates for the House of Delegates, WMRA's Christopher Clymer Kurtz and Marguerite Gallorini talked to some of them.

It’s an off-year election, but early on Tuesday, voting officials in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County said turnout was steady.  Christopher Clymer Kurtz reports.

Jane Grant Burner is secretary for the Harrisonburg Electoral Board, and was overseeing three city precincts this morning.

JANE GRANT BURNER: Not very busy, but a constant flow. People were coming in right at 6:00, and it’s been a steady stream.

In Rockingham County, Edom precinct chief Mary Sue McDonald said that at opening time, 16 people were waiting to vote, and the closeness of the election was bringing out voters.

MARY SUE MCDONALD: About a hundred an hour. It’s been good. We’ve been very, very steady.

With no presidents on the ballot, county residents Russ and Jane Eanes said lower turnout could bode well for Democrats.

RUSS EANES: Last year, the line was out the door. This year it wasn’t. I think that’s good for the Democrats, in this precinct.

Harrisonburg voter Melissa Weaver planned to encourage other moms also to vote.

MELISSA WEAVER: I'm going to post a quick picture and just say, “We’ve got three kids, but I can take 10 minutes, and so you can, too.” Local elections do matter, because they are changing policies, sometimes more than the national level.

Looking at the big picture, county resident John Woods said that he hopes people will join together.

JOHN WOODS: Individually in our communities, we need to figure out what we want, and then how we can live together, work together, and find common ground to stand on, and then find a leader that can do that.

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Turnout in Virginia’s elections tends to be lower in off-years, and on rainy days.  But that didn’t deter the voters at one polling station in Crozet.  Marguerite Gallorini has this report.

Cars pulled in and out of the parking in a constant stream at Crozet Elementary School.

ELECTION OFFICIAL: Thank you for voting!

Turnout has been good, says Lynn Rutherford-Snow, chief election official at Crozet’s Precinct 601.

LYNN RUTHERFORD-SNOW: At 8 a.m. we'd already had 397 registered voters to come through and vote. I think it's supposed to be a close-knit race for our governor and I think that's why we're having a fairly good turnout today.

She says a lot of older people came to vote - but also parents with their children, since Albemarle County Public Schools are closed yesterday and today.

RUTHERFORD-SNOW: We do strongly urge our parents. If you can and you have the time, bring them with you so they can see how the system operates.

Parents also came with their children who are now old enough to vote, including PVCC student Emily ThomasClarke :

EMILY THOMASCLARKE: It was my first time voting so it was exciting. I missed the presidential voting cut off by exactly a month so I was like uhhh, so it was exciting to come out here and vote today.

This morning, the rallying call was...

ELLEN AND EMILY THOMASCLARKE: Vote! Get out and vote! No matter who you're voting for, every vote, it matters.

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As voters in Harrisonburg City and Rockingham County headed to the polls this morning, it wasn’t always with a whole lot of confidence that their preferred candidates would win.  Christopher Clymer Kurtz reports.

In the governor’s race, people seemed to be more confident that Democrat Ralph Northam would win, over Republican Ed Gillespie.

In Harrisonburg, here are Jonathan and Whitney Huffman:

JONATHAN HUFFMAN: Fairly confident. We’re hoping for the best.

WHITNEY HUFFMAN: I don’t think we really need another Trump in the governor’s palace in Richmond.

And Melvin Quesenberry:

MELVIN QUESENBERRY: I’m a Trump man.

CLYMER KURTZ: You think Gillespie is going to take it?

QUESENBERRY: I’m not sure. I sure hope so.

For the District 26 delegate race between incumbent Republican Tony Wilt and his challenger Democrat Brent Finnegan, some seemed less sure.

In Harrisonburg, Danielle Ritchie, on scale of 1-10, put her confidence at mildly optimistic:

DANIELLE RITCHIE: I would probably say maybe a 7?

Harrisonburg’s Tammy Castle and the county’s Roger Stover were even less committed to their candidates’ odds:

TAMMY CASTLE: I’m actually not sure.

ROGER STOVER: I’ll tell you the truth, this day and age, I’ve seen it swing both ways.

Also voting in the county was Steve Burkholder:

STEVE BURKHOLDER: Oh...5. For governor, I’d say 7 or 8.

CLYMER KURTZ: Let me just guess: Northam and Finnegan.

STEVE BURKHOLDER: Yes.

Not everyone was uncertain, though, even among Finnegan supporters such as the city’s Brian Whitmore and the county’s Amy Haloskey:

BRIAN WHITMORE: I’m sure he’s going to get stomped, but what can you do.

AMY HALOSKEY: I think Finnegan’s got it. Absolutely. He’s a great guy, and there’s a lot of community support.

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Polls opened at 6 o’clock this morning.  Marguerite Gallorini made it early to one polling station in Charlottesville, where voters were selecting two new city council members, in addition to candidates for the statewide contests.

Several hours before the rain hit the city, people braved the cold to go vote before work at Charlottesville’s Walker Upper Elementary School. Independent City Council candidate Nikuyah Walker, doing a tour of all the precincts with her son Dante, was here encouraging people - or maybe was it people encouraging her.

NIKUYAH WALKER: Turnout has been really good. Lots of 'I got you', 'you already have my vote' so…

Whatever the results, she considers it all to be a success.

WALKER: I've been able to share this whole what I've been talking about the campaign that there's two Charlottesvilles and not one; and even the problems within the local Democratic party that we saw on a national level that got Trump elected.

Speaking of problems, John Worozbyt is a little confused about the candidates he voted for.

JOHN WOROZBYT: I tend to be a Democratic Party hack and so I voted for Northam for Governor, and Herring for, I want to say lieutenant governor, and then attorney general... That's terrible, that's why I'm a Democratic Party hack! I can't tell you... I know that John Adams was a Republican candidate…

He particularly disliked some of the attack ads that Republicans ran, he says. So did  UVa professor Hector Amaya.

HECTOR AMAYA: It was so, so important to vote against Gillespie and his politics of hate. I hope you understand, coming from a Latino, how hurtful it is to be exposed to the type of advertizing that Gillespie has issued, and we will remember.

A kind of rhetoric that might have fostered a little more commitment to vote on the part of Virginians, says chief election official Sheila Haughey:

SHEILA HAUGHEY: I know we've had a lot of absentee voters in the City, and I hear that's true in the County as well, this time.