The Most Important Story Last Night in Virginia? Voter Turnout

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The Most Important Story Last Night in Virginia? Voter Turnout

Ralph Northam defeated Ed Gillespie in the Virginia gubernatorial election yesterday, a victory for anyone who is not incredibly racist.

If you had asked pollsters just a few months ago, they likely would have said this result was absolutely expected. But near the end of the race, Gillespie had closed in the polls, thanks to racist attack ads that caused Northam to capitulate on key issues like sanctuary cities and environmental causes. This left the outcome of the election—which much of the nation was looking at as a litmus test for the country’s sympathies in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s win in 2016—in doubt.

Turns out, we needn’t have worried. In a night that represented a much-needed sweeping Democrat triumph (especially in the Virginia state elections), Northam won the election with a resounding victory, garnering 53.7 percent of the vote. And The Washington Post reports that he owes his win to surprisingly high voter turnout and polarization.

Of the six areas in Virginia, three voted for Northam, three for Gillespie. But luckily for Northam, the areas that he won were both more populous and more polarized. In fact,
every single area in Virginia both had the highest and most polarized voter turnout in two decades. WaPo reports that not since 1997 has a gubernatorial race had such strong turnout. In two areas, Northam actually won by 4,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump. Helping his cause was the fact that the South, Southwest and Shenandoah regions of Virginia, typically Republican, were not as strident as they were when voting for Trump.

The last gubernatorial race in Virginia ended with Democrat Terry McAuliffe narrowly defeating Republican Ken Cuccinelli. McAuliffe won Northern Virginia by about 127,000 votes. Northam won the same area by over 260,000.

If nothing else, this should demonstrate that Democrats have been energized by the election of Donald Trump. Trump is the least popular president in recent memory, and his ceaseless fountain of horrible bullshit has clearly given his opponents a desire to see him—and his compatriots in the Republican party—lose. Not since 1997, when Republican Ed Gilmore was elected, has a gubernatorial race received such a high turnout in Virginia. And if higher turnout means bigger wins for Democrats, then this could translate into something big for the 2018 midterms.

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