PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The number of people who decided to vote early this year is less than it has been every year prior since the opportunity was made available in Virginia in 2020.

It only means turning out the vote on Election Day only becomes more critical.

As of Monday, a little more than three-quarters of a million people had voted early either in person or by mail, according to an analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project.

That’s roughly 65% of the total early vote in 2021, the last time state offices were up for election. It’s roughly 195,000 less than the early votes for the Congressional midterms last fall.

Dr. Ben Melusky, an associate professor of political science at Old Dominion University, said that isn’t necessarily surprising as the 140-seat General Assembly races don’t garner the same attention as statewide races.

This year, however, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-Va.) made getting people out to vote early a priority.

So far, Democrats have dominated the early voting game. They have been able to get people who typically don’t drive to the polls and vote on a non-presidential year to fill out mail-in ballots.

However, Republicans came out of the gate with a message of “be wary of these mail-in ballots,” according to Rich Meagher, a Randolph-Macon political science professor.

Youngkin may be able to claim some victory in changing that narrative, with roughly 41% of those who voted early identifying as Republicans. That is up from previous years, but only by 3% from 2021.

But when it comes to getting first-time early voters, an analysis from VPAP found they make up roughly 6% of total early votes.