Virginia voters head to the polls on November 7, 2017, to choose a new governor; term limits prevent incumbent Terry McAuliffe from running for re-election. The offices of lieutenant governor and attorney general will also appear on the statewide ballot.
Here’s what you need to know as you head to the polls:
POLLING HOURS & LOCATIONS: Polls in Virginia open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. on election day. To find your nearest polling location, click here to go to the Virginia Department of Elections website and enter your address. You will need a photo ID in order to vote, such as a driver’s license, U.S. passport, veteran’s ID card, college student ID, tribal ID or an employee ID.
REGISTRATION GUIDELINES: Only voters who registered prior to October 16, 2017, are eligible to vote in this election. There is no same-day registration.
TRACKING RESULTS: The Virginia Department of Elections will provide election results on its website as the votes are tallied. You can also find results via local media outlets like WTKR, WJLA and The Virginian Pilot. Multiple national outlets will also be covering the race, like Decision Desk HQ, The Washington Post, Politico and The New York Times.
WHAT’S AT STAKE IN THE GUBERNATORIAL RACE: Virginia governors are only allowed to serve one term, which means that every four years, voters are treated to the turbulent highs and lows that usually accompany an open gubernatorial election. Incumbent Terry McAuliffe has endorsed his fellow Democrat and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, who is competing against Republican political consultant Ed Gillespie.
Campaign rhetoric in this year’s race has been expectedly heated. Gillespie has often seized upon Northam’s failure to attend pivotal meetings during his tenure in state government, claiming that the lieutenant governor failed to show up for work. On the other side of the aisle, Northam’s favorite way to taunt Gillespie is by jabbing at his history as a lobbyist in Washington and criticizing his professional ties to corporations like Enron and Koch Industries.
Polls for the 2017 election have, for the most part, favored Northam. However, over the past month Gillespie has bested Northam in three polls and tied in another, and some Democrats are worried that the party might lose yet another governorship (there are 34 Republican governors and only 15 Democrats).
It certainly doesn’t help that the seat flipped in both the 2014 and 2010 elections, and neither party has had a firm grip on it for decades. And while this odd, off-year race in a swing state might feel pivotal to next year’s mid-term elections given the rocky political climate lately, experts say that it’s actually not.
While it may not tell us what to expect in 2018, Virginia’s gubernatorial race will still have a national impact, first and foremost because the winner will preside over the congressional redistricting that will take place in 2021 after the U.S. Census is completed.
According to David Wasserman at The Cook Political Report, another strong influence of Virginia’s governor race will be its ability to drive voter turnout in the state legislative races, and those seats do matter when it comes to 2018 predictions. Wasserman says that if Democrats pick up at least 5 to 10 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, it could signal a corresponding shift in the U.S. House next year, as the 2009 state legislative races did for the 2010 mid-term elections.
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