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Virginia Democratic Primary Live Blog

"I voted" stickers held by a person who is standing off-camera
(Photo Crixell Matthews/VPM)

March 3, 2020 - 7:26 PM

Biden's lead is increasing as results continue to come in - VPAP is showing his share at 55.54 percent with 20.2 percent of precincts reporting.

With that, we'll close this blog. Stay tuned to 88.9 FM and check back at vpm.org/elections for more updates tonight and throughout the rest of this election cycle.

March 3, 2020 - 7:18 PM

In the final minutes before polls closed at Carver Elementary in Richmond, Dylan Davis spoke to VPM about the heavy student debt he's carrying.

"I was a student at VCU, but I got a lot of debt from going there," Davis said. "I'm voting for Bernie Sanders ... because he says he's going to help us with student debt forgiveness."

March 3, 2020 - 7:09 PM

NPR is calling Virginia for Joe Biden. With less than 1 percent of precincts reporting, they have the former Vice President at 48.8 percent.

March 3, 2020 - 6:53 PM

Lots of Sanders support in Varina.

Jennifer Mouton, who was wearing her infant, said maternity leave and childcare were “big issues" she's experienced over the last year. Healthcare, financial inequality, and “trying to get Trump out of office” were other factors.

She likes Elizabeth Warren, but concerns about her performance in polls led her to vote for Bernie Sanders.

Trey Alexander, who went to the polls with his mother Meloni Alexander, said he voted for Bernie Sanders.

"I feel like he's going to bring forth the most change, or at least try," Trey said.

He was critical of Pres. Donald Trump, but saw a silver lining. "As bad as people say he is, and he is ... he did break the mold of what a presidential candidate is supposed to be, and that's making a wave of people who are actually looking within our society in America and trying to fix the things which are broken in our system."

Meloni said she was proud of her son. "He's only 23 years old, so I thought that was pretty cool for a young man to come out to vote."

And although she was hopeful for a change, she felt pessimistic about the primary process. "I don't know if it's really going to matter. They showed us in the last election, the delegates have the final say."

March 3, 2020 - 6:28 PM

In Varina, Bonnie Bonner-Lee and David Lee said healthcare and the environment were their main issues. Homelessness, wages, and, according to David, "getting Trump out of office," were also a factor. 

They both cast votes for Bernie Sanders. "We really liked Amy Klobuchar, and then she dropped out," Bonnie said. She was hoping for someone more "middle of the road," but she felt good about her choice. "Bernie Sanders has taken pretty much the same stance since, forever. He's not really deviated from anything he's talked about for the last 10, 15 years, so I think if anybody is going to follow through on what they think they can do for the country, it's him."

March 3, 2020 - 6:02 PM

Judging by two precincts in Richmond, the turnout this year will be higher than 2008 or 2016. At John B. Cary, turnout was 1,172 as of 6:00 p.m. When polls closed in 2016 it was 874, and in 2008, only 767.

At George Carver Elementary, turnout far surpassed 2008. As of 6 p.m., 1,446 ballots had been cast to 2008's 556. Like Cary, turnout was higher in 2016 than 2008, at 1,015.

In Chesterfield, total turnout surpassed 2016 levels by 4 p.m. Nearly 40,000 ballots had been cast with 3 hours left before polls close. In 2016, total turnout was 33,532.

March 3, 2020 - 5:42 PM

Reminder: Virgina polls close at 7 p.m., but we'll continue national NPR coverage on 88.9 FM as late as 3 a.m. and will keep updating this blog and Twitter until Virginia results come in.

We'll have some turnout updates in our next post.

March 3, 2020 - 5:03 PM

An update from Goochland county: Vernon Fleming told VPM he didn’t want to name his candidate, but said, “He has the best chance of beating Donald Trump” and is “more of a moderate.” Passing gun control, protecting the environment, and reducing economic gaps with a living wage were the issues that influenced his vote today.

Fleming said, "We have extremely wealthy folks in this country ... and we also have folks that are living in conditions that are unacceptable." Even in Goochland, he said some people live without plumbing or wooden floors, calling it "totally unacceptable in 2020."

Fleming was at the polls for several hours. He said turnout was "steady," and voters were excited to "find someone who's going to change the direction of this country."

March 3, 2020 - 4:32 PM

According to official numbers from Chesterfield County Director of Elections Constance L. Hargrove, the county is on track to surpass 2016 primary turnout. As of 2 p.m., most precincts had registered nearly as many ballots as they did by the end of the day in 2016. Numbers still lag behind the record high turnout in the 2008 primary.

In Richmond, turnout numbers continued to look strong: near 4 p.m., Carver Elementary reported 1130 ballots and VCU had 911. The Main Street Station count was 936 as of 4:41 p.m.

Full results from Chesterfield (Note: Precinct 415 did not report any 2pm counts.)

March 3, 2020 - 3:46 PM

Meg Billett and her daughter Mackenzie, nicknamed "Bean," had brunch after they voted this morning. As parents, Billett and her husband wanted to involve Mackenzie in the voting process to show her "it's possible for her to have a voice."

"The issues that are important to us this primary election are immigration and deportation. I haven't always been an American citizen, so those kind of issues are near and dear to my heart, especially since my daughter is part Canadian as well," Billett said. "Raising a kid in this political climate is a little scary, but we want to make sure that she knows she has a voice, and that one vote can make a difference."

March 3, 2020 - 1:38 PM

Short lines formed at George Carver Elementary in Richmond around lunch time.

VCU senior Isaiah Meyers said he was voting for Bernie Sanders, in part because he grew up in rural Appalachia, where healthcare access is limited. “I really like the idea of Democratic Socialism, healthcare is a really big one.”

He doesn’t think the socialist label will hurt Sanders in the election: “I think people hate capitalism just as much as they hate socialism.”

Outside, Pastor O.E. Gatson was collecting signatures to get Mariah White on November’s ballot for 2nd District School Board. “We need for someone to be on that school board who is going to look out for the whole person as a student,” said Gatson. 

“We need someone who can thank and appreciate young people.” 

Gatson hadn’t voted when VPM spoke with her, but said she was learning toward Bernie Sanders. “I think he loves young people,” said Gatson.

March 3, 2020 - 12:23 PM

In Chesterfield at Beulah Elementary School, Vickie Davis said taxes were her major issue: “With the last tax changes, they’ve really negatively affected the middle class.” She said a “middle-class friendly administration” was her goal, and she’d vote for any Democrat who won the nomination. “A house divided can not stand, so whoever is the nominee we need to stand behind them. Just like the Republicans are standing behind Donald Trump,” said Davis.

Nine miles north at the Southside Community Center, several people who spoke to VPM said they favored Joe Biden, many citing his time in office with Pres. Barack Obama. Doris Jo Cole said Amy Klobuchar was her first choice. “I was really torn, because I wanted to see a woman as president,” said Cole. “But I think Joe can bring us together. He’s calm.”

Like Davis, Cole said she’d support any Democrat: “If [the candidates] are divided, we’re going to stay where we are. We have to go in as one.”

Another voter, Elwood Davis Sr., said the economy was a key issue, especially housing and evictions. He preferred Biden, but said he’d support whoever the nominee was.

  “The Democrats will move forward with the economy, and [foreign trade]. We have to trade abroad as well, and if we don’t do that, our economy and stock market will fall through the floor.”

March 3, 2020 - 11:45 AM

At Virginia State University, many students are on Spring Break and turnout was light when VPM visited during the morning hours. On the sidewalk out front, student Kyla Frank was trying to persuade voters to choose Bernie Sanders. She said his movement is powered by young people, a growing voting block that comprises about 1 in 10 voters.

If he loses, she says, “I don’t really have the privilege,” to vote for someone else. “He has the only platform that’s going to ensure I have a good quality of living,” she said, adding, “It was 'blue no matter who' last election, and Hillary lost, and it’s because she’s so disconnected from the real problems of working class people and especially young people.”

March 3, 2020 - 11:25 AM

Voter turnout numbers look steady. In Richmond, Southside Community Center had 215 ballots around 10:49 a.m., and Carver Elementary was at 429. VCU turnout was lower at 185 as of 10:06 a.m., but at more residential polling spots like John B. Cary, numbers were high. As of 9:10 a.m., Cary had 357 ballots cast.

Officials with the Department of Elections reported strong turnout across the state on a briefing call. DOE Commissioner Chris Piper said it was "the smoothest morning I can remember." No reports of disruptions caused by the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

March 3, 2020 - 10:45 AM

At George Carver Elementary School in Richmond, Byron Koranteng said he made sure to update his registration this year so he could vote in the primary. “Because I’m black, it’s kind of important that I exercise my right to participate in the American government, so that it is withinmy interest, and t bad things do not happen to me and other people of color,” Koranteng said.

 

Koranteng said he voted for Bernie Sanders, motivated by his stances on student debt, public transit, and public health.

Another Sanders supporter, Anne Marie Stewart, said Medicare for All and the climate crisis were her main issues. If Sanders loses, she’ll support whoever the Democratic nominee is, “One-thousand percent.”

“I hate to vote for someone just to get someone else out of office,” Stewart told VPM. “But I actually like all of these candidates, I think any of them would do a good job.”

March 3, 2020 - 10:20 AM

Turnout is steady, but VPM has no reports of issues at the polls yet. Absentee voting and early voting rates have been high.

More than 80,000 registered voters requested absentee ballots for the Democratic presidential primary, according to the Department of Elections. Currently, the state law requires voters to use one of 20 reasons to cast absentee ballots, such as being out of town for a business trip. 

As of this morning, nearly 14,780 students requested absentee ballots. So did 13,801 people going away on a business trip who cast ballots early as well as 21,583 individuals who had personal business or vacations planned. The deadline to vote absentee in person at local registrar's offices was Saturday. Mailed ballots have to be at the local registrar’s office by 5 p.m. today to count for the primary election.

If you have any problems voting today, please let us know.

March 3, 2020 - 9:55 AM

As of 9:15 a.m., 175 voters had cast ballots at Skinquarter in Chesterfield. It's a rural precinct surrounded by new housing developments, and one of five precincts the county split due to overcrowding in the 2018 election. A judge ordered the poll to stay open late that year; the Chief Elections Officer at the poll said it had the most voters of any precinct in the state.

Ian Stewart spoke to first-time voters Sammy and Shree Naidoo Raikatalau, who became American citizens last November. “I don’t know how to express this,” Sammy said about his first time voting. “Everybody talks about freedom, and you feel that.”

Shree was supporting Elizabeth Warren. “It’s not just because she’s a woman, but the values she stands for,” said Shree. “She fights for everybody.”

Sammy favored Joe Biden, who he described as a moderate leader that would unite people during a “tense” time. “I think Biden has that experience from the previous administration, and he has a better understanding and view of where this nation needs to go,” Sammy said.

March 3, 2020 - 9:15 AM

At Swansboro Elementary School in Richmond, 143 ballots had been cast by 8:25 a.m.

Kathleen Ryan was one of those voters. The longtime Bernie Sanders supporter is concerned about cancelling student debt and supports Medicare for All. 
"He's for the people, not for the 1 percent,” said Ryan, echoing lines from Sanders’ campaign speeches. “He's concerned and he's been consistent in his views and his policies for 40 years, and he's the only one who doesn't flip-flop and who wants this done democratically instead of commercially."

Another Swansboro voter, Barbara Plumber, said she voted today because she’s“concerned about the direction that this country is going in." Policies for children and families were her main interest, and dissatisfaction with President Trump. Plumber told VPM she briefly entertained Michael Bloomberg. But in the end, she said Joe Biden was the more experienced candidate. Recalling a phrase from the Obama campaign, Plumber said: "I'm keeping hope alive."
 

March 3, 2020 - 7:35 AM

Things are quiet at Dominion Place, a high turnout polling site near VCU, but volunteers say early turnout was high.

"They were lined up at 6 a.m."

75 ballots had been cast as of 7:30.

March 3, 2020 - 6:07 AM

Polls opened 7 minutes ago across Virginia.  At John B. Cary, a high turnout polling station, a small line queued up before 6 a.m. "Every time," says a polling station volunteer. "There's always a couple people lined up right at 6 a.m."

18 people had cast their ballots, with several more arriving.

March 2, 2020 - 4:00 PM

Tomorrow, voters will elect a Democrat to run against President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. VPM will be updating this story with live coverage all day starting at 6 a.m. when polls open, and also over 88.9 FM and on Twitter and Facebook

Although many candidates have left the race, including Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, who both hosted rallies in Virginia, they remain on the ballot. We've prepared a sample ballot image to illustrate which candidates have ended their campaign. In order of their appearance on the ballot, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joseph R. Biden, Tulsi Gabbard, and Michael R. Bloomberg remain in the race.

We want to hear from you throughout the day. Problems at a polling place? Let us know. We'll be checking Twitter (DMs are open) and responses to this  Google form. We also want to know if you voted early for a candidate who dropped out, what issues matter to you, and how you feel about your vote.

We'll also be posting issues-based stories on a new elections page, with coverage of the Richmond mayoral election, city council, select congressional races, and the presidential election.

Polls close at 7 p.m. tomorrow. Check back often throughout the day for news and updates.

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