Did Democratic “crossover” voters in Virginia help fuel the state’s extraordinary surge in Republican voting on Super Tuesday?
More than twice as many GOP ballots were cast on Tuesday than had been submitted in the 2008 presidential primary. Part of the increase was undoubtedly because of the tumultuous nature of this year’s Republican primary, and the fact that there are still many candidates jostling for votes.
But interviews at the polls and posts on social media showed that at least a slice of those voters were people who planned to vote Democratic in the fall, but took advantage of Virginia’s open-primary law to try to impact the Republican race.
“Lifelong Democrat here and I cast my first vote for a Republican yesterday in the VA primary,” Liz Odar, an Arlington millennial, said in an email. “I decided my vote was better used as a vote against Trump.”
Arlington, the bluest of the counties in Virginia, recorded more than 27,000 voters in the GOP primary— so many that election officials ran out of pre-printed ballots in some precincts.
“Several thousand” voters received officially photocopied ballots so they could cast their votes, registrar Linda Lindberg said. Those ballots then had to be counted by hand.
Jim Presswood, chairman of the Arlington Republican Committee, said he and other long-time Republicans have heard about crossover voting “but it’s an impossibility to know for sure.”
While billionaire Donald Trump won the state, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) placed first in Arlington and across Northern Virginia, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich also did relatively well in the Washington suburbs.
“We were very excited that there was this much interest in our candidates,” Presswood said. “We hope they will mark their ballots for us again.”
Dave Kennedy, director of a nonprofit association, said he voted for Kasich on Tuesday, though he normally backs Democrats.
“It’s the best use of my vote, to stir up the pot on the Republican side,” said Kennedy, 53.
In Alexandria, another historically Democratic jurisdiction, more than 13,000 Republican ballots were cast, and Rubio won every precinct. There were 23,430 Democratic ballots, a drop of about 14 percent compared to 2008.
“There were probably a lot of Republicans and maybe some independents who were threatened by [Trump],”said Clarence Tong, chairman of the Alexandria Democrats.