RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- Early voting for Virginia’s closely-watched Primary Election kicked off on Friday. The winners will compete in the General Election set for Nov. 2, 2021.
Statewide, Democrats are choosing who they want to be the party’s nominee for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
There are also a number of local races, including several contested seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates. All 100 members of the chamber are up for reelection this year but only races with multiple challengers from the same party will be on the ballot for the June Primary.
For a full breakdown of candidates, click here.
Republicans cannot vote for statewide candidates early because the party opted for a convention, which is set for May 8th. Voters had to register as delegates to participate in the drive-through event but that deadline has already passed.
How to vote early
Virginians don’t need an excuse anymore to vote absentee and there are a number of ways to participate before the June 8th Primary.
Registered voters can head to their local general registrar’s office or a nearby satellite voting location to vote early. The last day to do so is June 5th.
You don’t need a photo ID to vote anymore but you do need an accepted form of identification.
Virginians can also request an absentee ballot by mail, as long as that request is made by May 28. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, more than 59,000 Virginians have already done this.
Those who requested an absentee ballot through the mail are expected to receive them on Friday, according to a release from Virginia’s Department of Elections.
After filling out a mailed-ballot, Virginians have two options for returning them.
Those who choose to send them back by mail must make sure they are postmarked by June 8th, though they will be accepted as long as they’re received by noon on June 11th.
Otherwise, under new state regulations, voters can skip the mail and the line and return their ballots directly to official drop boxes across the state, an option available until 7pm on June 8th. Those voters should still follow instructions for proper ballot sealing.
Where the races stand
The biggest prize up for grabs on June 8th is the Democratic nomination for governor.
In an unusually large and notably diverse field, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe holds a commanding lead, according to a poll released Thursday by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University.
In a survey of 806 likely voters, 47% said they would pick McAuliffe if the primary were today. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax received 8%, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan got 6%, former state delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy received 5% and Del. Lee Carter got just 1% of the vote.
“This is McAuliffe’s race to lose. He really is a strong front runner, which is not surprising,” said 8News Political Analyst and Randolph-Macon Professor Rich Meagher. “He has all the advantages of an incumbent in terms of name recognition and he doesn’t have a lot of the disadvantages because he hasn’t been in office for four years. No one can blame him for anything.”
Meagher said the start of early voting signifies that other candidates are running out of time to close the gap. Even with 27 percent of voters polled still undecided, he said that will be a challenge.
“You would need all of these undecided voters to essentially break towards the same candidate in order for that candidate to be competitive,” Meagher said.
Meagher said, so far, the race for lieutenant governor and attorney general are proving to be much closer.
The poll puts Del. Sam Rasoul as the front runner with 12% support but notes that two out of three Democratic voters (64%) are still undecided in the crowded contest. None of the remaining candidates received more than 2% support.
“No one is way ahead. No one has that incumbency advantage and so the large number of undecided voters can really swing that race in any direction,” Meagher said.
In the race for attorney general, incumbent Mark Herring (42%) has held his lead over Norfolk Del. Jerrauld “Jay” Jones (18%), despite Jone’s key endorsement from Gov. Ralph Northam. The poll says 34% of Democratic voters are undecided.