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Early Voting for Presidential Primary On Pace to Break Recent Record

Supporters of Democratic Presidential hopeful Mayor Pete Buttigieg at a rally in Arlington.
Supporters of Democratic Presidential hopeful Mayor Pete Buttigieg at a rally in Arlington on Sunday. (Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Virginians are voting in record numbers ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary, according to data from the Department of Elections.

More than 24,000 voters have already cast absentee ballots so far a week out from the primary, and nearly 57,000 Virginians have requested absentee ballots. The numbers are on pace to eclipse any primary from either party since at least 2000, including the roughly 26,000 absentee votes cast four years ago.

Turnout has surged in recent elections; last year’s legislative elections saw 40% turnout, up from 29% in 2015. The 2018 midterms saw a spike of over 17% turnout compared to 2014.

The trend boils down to the polarizing man in the White House, according to University of Mary Washington political science professor Stephen Farnsworth.

“What Donald Trump has done is something registrars have been trying to do for years: ramp up voter turnout in Virginia,” Farnsworth said.

Virginia has received an increasing amount of attention ahead of Super Tuesday.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg have made recent stops in Virginia ahead of Super Tuesday.

Bloomberg has pumped almost $6 million into TV ads airing in Virginia, according to data from the Richmond-based ad shop Poolhouse, far eclipsing spending by other candidates. The contest’s other billionaire, Tom Steyer, comes in a distant second, spending almost $500,000.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) is set to address supporters on Thursday at the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center in Richmond, with Saturday stops in Northern Virginia and Virginia Beach. Sen. Amy Klobochar (D-Minnesota) will head to Northern Virginia on Saturday, according to her campaign. 

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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