The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Uneasy voters in D.C., Maryland and Virginia cast Election Day ballots

A Virginia voter fills her ballot out under the watchful eyes of her son at the Ida Lee Recreation Center in Virginia’s 10th District in Leesburg. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Confused or convinced, energized or despondent, voters headed to the polls Tuesday across D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Their concerns — inflation, crime, abortion, the future of democracy itself — were many, but what drove them to the ballot was often the same: profound anxiety over the future of their country, states, cities and towns.

Travis Henderson, a 27-year-old member of the Virginia National Guard who was deployed during the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, said his unease over the future of America’s democratic ideals fueled a vote for Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) instead of Republican Yesli Vega, a Prince William Board of County Supervisors member, in Virginia’s 7th District. Vega said those outside the Capitol that day were exercising their First Amendment rights — which was all Henderson needed to hear.

“I was like: ‘Come on, man. Are you serious about this?’” Henderson said as he cast his ballot for Spanberger at a middle school in Woodbridge, Va. The violent effort to block election results that day, he said, “was definitely a setback for our country.”

Edgar Terrero, voting at Dunbar High School in Northwest Washington, said his concerns about crime and inflation had soured him on the Democratic Party and led him to vote against D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, who has not faced serious opposition in her effort to win a third term since she won the Democratic primary.

Terrero said his neighborhood in Ward 5 “looks really nice … but then you either read the news or even if you go on Nextdoor, there’s always carjackings, or armed robberies or shootings.”

Terrero, who commutes to work in Virginia, said he has started waiting in line at Costco to buy his gas. He said the positions of local candidates on addressing voters’ economic distress are “fluffy and generalized.”

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Senate control
Democrats will keep Senate majority after winning eight out of the nine seats rated competitive by Cook Political Report. The only remaining race will be decided in Georgia in a Dec. 6 runoff — here’s how it will work.
House control
Republicans narrowly won back control of the House, creating a split Congress and dealing a blow to President Biden and his agenda.
What the results mean for 2024
A Republican Party red wave seems to be a ripple after Republicans fell short in the Senate and narrowly won control in the House. Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign on Tuesday, ignoring the advice of longtime allies who encouraged him to delay the announcement.

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As the Washington region turns out to cast ballots in the 2022 midterms, many voters are attaching existential consequences to their votes. It is an attitude that reflects the mood nationwide, with Republicans and Democrats warning that disaster could unfold should the other party triumph.

Control of Congress at stake as voters head to polls

Those stakes have been laid out especially in Virginia, where some of the tightest congressional races in the country will be decided. In addition to Vega’s challenge to Spanberger, Rep. Elaine Luria (D) is running for reelection in the Virginia Beach-anchored 2nd District against state Sen. Jen A. Kiggans (R). In the Northern Virginia-based 10th, Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D) is being challenged by Republican Hung Cao.

Maryland has its own congressional battle in its 6th District, where business executive Rep. David Trone (D) has a rematch with Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington).

Maryland voters will be deciding Republican Larry Hogan’s successor as governor. Polls show Democrat Wes Moore has a lead of more than 30 percentage points over Republican Dan Cox. If Moore wins, he will become the state’s first Black governor.

The state attorney general and comptroller are also before voters, as is Question 4, which would make recreational marijuana legal for adults. Local election officials warn that it will take days or weeks for all ballots to be counted in Maryland, delaying some results.

In heavily Democratic D.C., Bowser is likely to be the first mayor elected to a third term since Marion Barry, who began his third term in 1987. Several council races are on the ballot as well, led by the race for two at-large council seats, which features three sitting council members among the eight candidates. Initiative 82, which would gradually raise the tipped minimum wage to match the standard minimum wage by 2027, is on the ballot, too.

Several notable local races unfolded in Virginia as well, including for a seat on the Loudoun County School Board; for a seat on the Arlington County Board, a race that has become a de facto referendum on housing policy in the D.C. suburb; and for mayor of Fairfax City, a nonpartisan race that has drawn partisan dollars.

A guide to the 2022 Virginia election

Polls closed at 7 p.m. in Virginia and will close at 8 p.m. in Maryland and D.C.

Voting for the most part appeared to proceed smoothly across the region, although some Virginia counties experienced delays Tuesday morning because of problems stemming from poll workers’ unfamiliarity with new electronic ledgers containing the names of those registered to vote.

Voting was delayed in some Virginia counties Tuesday morning by issues with electronic ledgers that contain the names of voters who are registered to vote in a particular precinct, said Susan Beals, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections. Polling sites in Richmond and the counties of Nottoway, Chesterfield and Suffolk were affected, but the issues have now been resolved, Beals said.

“There were some slightly longer lines at rush hour this morning,” Beals said. “No one has been turned away.”

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Midterm Elections 2022: Voting in D.C., Md. & Va.
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She said that the state had not received any reports of voter intimidation or harassment and that 943,000 Virginia voters had already cast ballots as of Tuesday morning via early voting.

In the District, voters trying to cast ballots at several sites in Ward 1 encountered long lines because of problems printing paper ballots. A D.C. Board of Elections spokesman said that technicians from the agency were working to fix the problems and that votes could still be cast electronically.

Some voters said they were pegging their decisions to larger concerns about the direction of the country. Niaz Ali, 29, walked out of Bel Air Elementary School in Woodbridge and stopped to snap a selfie: He said he wanted to record the day when he switched parties, from Democrat to Republican.

Ali, who is from Pakistan, said he has long supported Democrats but has become frustrated by inflation and illegal immigration.

“They [messed up] everything,” he said. “We need Trump back.”

He voted for Vega but said he didn’t know anything about her.

“Let’s see how she does,” he said.

Donald Trump also weighed on the mind Jorge Salazar, a 64-year-old from El Salvador. He said he sees the former president as a menace whose political movement needs to be stopped.

“We need to keep him from trying to sell out the country,” Salazar said in Spanish. “The economy is not Biden’s fault.”

He resented Vega’s attitude toward immigrants, saying she makes it sound as if they’re all criminals who don’t want to work.

A guide to the 2022 Maryland election

“She’s not for Hispanic interests,” he said. “She’s out to benefit herself.”

In Maryland, polls have shown the race for governor to be one of the most lopsided general-election contests in recent memory, but many voters were still enthusiastic about casting a ballot that could help install the state’s first Black governor.

“I remember when we couldn’t vote,” said Richard W. Thomas Jr., an 80-year-old Black man who has lived his entire life in Montgomery County. “We’ve made a big change.”

Thomas, a Democrat, left the Silver Spring civic building Tuesday morning with an “I voted” sticker on his bright-orange sweatshirt.

“Wes Moore is my man,” he said.

Moore’s Republican opponent, Cox, has struggled to gain traction in a heavily blue state where Trump’s endorsement — which elevated the Frederick County delegate above opponents in the GOP primary — is a liability among many voters. Cox, who has avidly spread falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election and was dismissed as a “QAnon whack job” by his own party’s outgoing governor, has also struggled against voters’ perceptions that he is too extreme.

But some Maryland voters have embraced Cox over what they view as the disastrous direction of the country under Democratic leadership.

Peggy Pinckney, 62, who was voting at Tuscarora High School in Frederick County, said she would miss Hogan. Nevertheless, she added, she planned to vote for Republicans down the ballot, overcoming what she said was her lack of excitement about Cox.

“I’m not crazy about him, but I’m going to vote for him,” she said. “I don’t like the way the country is right now with Biden. Everything is just out of control, you know? Food prices, gas, you name it.”

Some who went to the polls in Maryland were also thinking about the fourth question on the state ballot, which asks whether Maryland should legalize marijuana for recreational use for people 21 and older on or after July 1, 2023.

Jennifer Manguera, who voted in Silver Spring, said legalization “was kind of like closing the barn door after the horse got out.” Nevertheless, she said, she sees the measure as an important step toward reforming the criminal justice system.

“Do I personally want to walk through clouds of marijuana smoke? No,” Manguera said. “But it is there. So I don’t think that it should be illegal and have the stigma of the arrests.”

Another initiative, on the ballot in D.C., would alter the calculation of restaurant workers’ pay so that tips cannot be included toward the $16.10 minimum wage — a change backers say would provide more financial stability for employees. The change, which critics point out would substantially increase payroll costs for business owners, would take effect by 2027.

Christopher Berg, 38, who worked as a waiter at a restaurant in Dupont Circle for more than seven years, said his support for the initiative was personal.

“I know that in nice restaurants, where there’s plenty of turnover and lots of tables, waiters and bartenders have a chance to make a much, much higher ceiling,” said Berg, who was voting in Northwest Washington on Tuesday. “But I think you got to raise the floor.”

Voting in D.C. elections? Here’s how to vote and key races to watch

Economic issues also factored into an electoral choice made by Irvin Navarro, 32, voting at Windsor Woods Elementary School in Virginia Beach.

A logistics manager in the transportation industry, Navarro has a wife and two children. He is the son of Mexican immigrants, born in California, and social issues — including immigration policy — had always led him to support Democrats. He voted for Joe Biden and Luria in the last election. He was troubled by Trump supporters’ attack on the Capitol.

But in this election, Navarro decided to vote Republican for the first time in his life, casting a ballot for Kiggans. The reason: his bank account.

Navarro said that his family has increasingly felt the squeeze from the rising costs of fuel and food and that he is no longer confident Democrats have the answer.

“I hate to sound selfish. But at the end of the night, when I go to bed and I check the bank account one last time to make sure we’re okay for the next week or two, that’s when the final decision comes into play,” he said. “It’s not so much what’s going to be the abortion laws in a year or two, or immigration or the Border Patrol. It’s going to be more, ‘Do I have enough money?’”

He said he associated Luria with the Biden administration’s economic policies.

“It’s weird to say I voted Republican,” he said.

Among those voting at Woodbridge Middle School in Virginia was Rodney Ouden, 55, who took his daughter Miriah, 18, to cast her first-ever ballot. Both chose Spanberger. Rodney Ouden said he likes that Spanberger is bipartisan, saying he found it “ridiculous” that Vega’s campaign tried to paint her as an extreme liberal who voted in lockstep with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“It doesn’t matter who you vote with — it’s what you vote for,” he said.

The state of the nation’s democracy is also a huge concern, he said, adding that he has gotten into arguments with people he knows over whether the 2020 election was stolen.

“You’ve got a lot of people on the right running who seem not to believe in America anymore,” he said.

Miriah Ouden said she wanted more people her age to make their voices heard. “Our generation, they don’t follow this,” she said about elections. “Who’s to say what comes next?”

Emily Seymour, Jim Morrison, Dana Hedgpeth, Hayden Godfrey and Audrey Hill contributed to this report.

The 2022 Midterm Elections

Georgia runoff election: Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) won re-election in the Georgia Senate runoff, defeating Republican challenger Herschel Walker and giving Democrats a 51st seat in the Senate for the 118th Congress. Get live updates here and runoff results by county.

Divided government: Republicans narrowly won back control of the House, while Democrats will keep control of the Senate, creating a split Congress.

What the results mean for 2024: A Republican Party red wave seems to be a ripple after Republicans fell short in the Senate and narrowly won control in the House. Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign shortly after the midterms. Here are the top 10 2024 presidential candidates for the Republicans and Democrats.

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