Primary election: 2,200 in Roanoke City cast early ballots

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 5:10 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - As Virginia voters prepare to check a box to nominate a Democratic candidate for governor, Lt. governor and attorney general, nearly 2,200 people in the City of Roanoke have already checked voting off their to-do list.

More than 1,500 people voted early in person. Another 550 cast early ballots by mail, according to Roanoke’s director of elections, Andrew Cochran.

“That’s really extraordinary,” Cochran said. “This is the first time, of course, that we’ve had no-excuse early voting and no-excuse early voting by mail [for a primary election].”

While he’s not expecting the turnout of a presidential election, Cochran said those 2,200 votes surpass the total number of ballots cast in the 2013 primary election. However, that election did not contain a candidate for governor.

“I think voter engagement is really high,” said Cochran. “I tried to tell people here that we would get a good turnout, relatively speaking for a primary, and I think it far exceeded what I was expecting, so kudos to our voters.”

Voters are deciding between five candidates to receive the gubernatorial nomination: former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, Sen. Jennifer McClellan, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Del. Lee Carter.

A recent Roanoke College poll paints McAuliffe as the clear front runner, garnering support from 49% of people polled.

WDBJ7 political analyst, Bob Denton, cautions against awarding him the win just yet.

“It’s going to be important who shows up,” said Denton. “Younger voters? Are they going to show up? How are African Americans going to vote? There’s still 30% undecided. If too many people think Terry McAuliffe already has it, he may be in trouble.”

Carroll Foy polled at 11% in that same Roanoke College poll. McClellan, Fairfax and Carter all polled below 10%.

“This is certainly, for Democrats, an opportunity to decide the future in terms of the direction they want to go,” said Denton. “Do they want to be more progressive, or do they want to be a little more moderate? Do they want someone with more experience or someone with less experience?”

For the Lt. governor nomination, it’s still anybody’s race. Del. Hala Ayala leads Roanoke Del. Sam Rasoul in the polls 16% to 11%.

But 45% of the polling pool is still undecided. Mark Levine, Andria McClellan, Sean Perryman and Xavier Warren are also being considered by voters.

“That could go either way, any way whatsoever, and someone could win with maybe even less than 30% of the vote,” said Denton.

In the attorney general’s race, current AG Mark Herring has a large lead in the polls over challenger, Del. Jay Jones.

But again, Denton questions whether the result will be that clear-cut.

“Insiders are telling me that’s the race to watch,” said Denton. “If there’s going to be an upset, that may well be where the upset will come.”

The winners of the Democratic primary will face a GOP ticket consisting of gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, Lt. governor-hopeful former Del. Winsome Sears and AG candidate Del. Jason Miyares.

If you haven’t yet made your voice heard, you can stop by your polling place before 7 Tuesday night.

You’ll need an ID, but if you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you will not need a mask.

“We will have cleaning protocols in place in each precinct in the city,” added Cochran.

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