Virginia voters on Tuesday awarded former vice president Joe Biden the state's 13 electoral votes, after a hectic Election Day in which ballots that were cast early but counted late at first made the outcome appear uncertain.
A huge batch of absentee votes from Fairfax County that were added to totals after midnight gave Biden a several-point edge over President Trump, according to Edison Research projections. U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) also was projected to defeat GOP challenger Daniel Gade.
Turbocharged by nearly four years of a Republican president who has proved deeply unpopular in the state, Democrats had hoped to deliver a resounding win for Biden and extend their gains in congressional seats. That did not happen.
Luria prevailed in her bitter rematch against Republican challenger Scott Taylor, whom she ousted from Congress in 2018. Taylor conceded around noon Wednesday, wishing Luria success in her second term.
In the 7th District, Spanberger was trailing state Del. Nick Freitas (R) by a few hundred votes, with tens of thousands of early ballots still untallied.
State Democratic lawmakers had used their new majorities in the Capitol to expand absentee voting options, leading to a deluge of early ballots over the past 45 days that could lead to historic overall levels of turnout — despite concerns about spreading the novel coronavirus.
More than 2.7 million Virginians had already voted in person or by mail as of Monday night, according to state data — nearly 69 percent of the total number (3.98 million) who turned out for the 2016 contest, and nearly five times the 566,948 who voted early four years ago.
Those early ballots took more time to count, however, injecting unusual uncertainty into many races.
Nonetheless, some results emerged. Edison Research projected victories for the state’s remaining congressional incumbents: Reps. Rob Wittman (R), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D), Donald McEachin (D), Ben Cline (R), Don Beyer (D), H. Morgan Griffith (R), Jennifer Wexton (D) and Gerald E. Connolly (D).
From the suburbs in the eastern part of the state that are gaining more and more influence, to the rural western towns that fear losing it, Virginia voters of every persuasion expressed anxiety about the weight of this year’s election.
“I felt like it was a choice between democracy and fascism, so it was an easy choice for me,” said Thomas Elmore, a retired CIA and naval officer voting for Democrats in a hotly contested suburb of Richmond.
But in the same precinct, Dale Harvey — a nurse in her 40s — and husband Cliff voted a straight Republican ticket “because we believe in the Constitution.”
Elections officials said in-person voting played out smoothly around the state, with no reports of voter harassment or intimidation at any polling places and only minor incidents around the need to wear masks indoors because of the pandemic.
In Norfolk, however, authorities said they arrested a 63-year-old man for allegedly threatening to bomb a polling place.
Voters were deciding on two proposed constitutional amendments — one to create a bipartisan redistricting commission , the other to exempt disabled veterans from personal property tax on a car or truck. Both appeared likely to pass by wide margins, according to unofficial returns.
The state Department of Elections instructed registrars to stop counting mail-in ballots by 11 p.m. and report totals to that point. For any jurisdictions that had not reported complete results, counting was set to resume Wednesday morning — though updated numbers may not be reported until Friday.
In Fairfax County, an early-morning math error led to over-reporting Biden’s lead by roughly 100,000 votes — a mistake that Stephen M. Hunt, chairman of the Fairfax County electoral board, said was discovered and corrected within 10 to 15 minutes.
Hunt said approximately two-thirds of Fairfax County’s vote came through early absentee voting. An election worker initially erroneously added 100,000 to Biden’s absentee ballot count when adding up all the sources of absentee ballots in the county: by mail, through a dropbox, in person. The correct vote totals in Fairfax County as of 2:30 a.m. Wednesday showed Biden with roughly 404,000 votes to Trump’s roughly 162,000.
A recent Washington Post-Schar School poll of Virginia voters showed that a majority of early ballots had been cast for Democratic candidates and that people planning to vote on Tuesday were more likely to favor Republicans.
At the Spring Hill Recreation Center in McLean, Cory Mills, 40, wore a pro-Trump hat as he voted for Republicans all down the ballot. He said that Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to produce a coronavirus vaccine, was “unprecedented” and that the White House did the best it could in the early days of the pandemic.
But in Warrenton, Lauren Parker — who usually votes Republican — was undecided about her presidential vote until she got to her polling place. Thinking about Trump’s handling of the novel coronavirus, she wound up making a last-minute switch to Biden.
“I just thought that leadership is what’s most important to me right now,” said Parker, a 38-year-old teacher.
Virginia’s presidential preference seemed predictable this year, with polls showing Biden holding a significant lead over Trump. The state has only become more blue since becoming the only former member of the Confederacy to support Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, and neither presidential campaign spent significantly here this year.
Early exit polling suggested Biden cut into Trump’s lead among White Virginia voters, with slightly more than half favoring the president. In 2016, Trump won 59 percent of White Virginia voters; Hillary Clinton took 35 percent.
The exit polling suggested Biden won roughly 9 in 10 Black Virginia voters, on par with Clinton’s performance. And Trump appeared to lose ground in the rural parts of Virginia that have been most solidly Republican.
Trump appeared to do better this year among Virginia’s veterans, who backed him by a nearly 2-to-1 margin over Biden.
Warner, the Democratic incumbent in the Senate, had held a significant lead over his GOP challenger, Gade, in both polling and fundraising. Warner had raised about $13.3 million, according to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project, compared with about $4 million for Gade, an Army veteran who lost a leg in combat in Iraq.
At the Kempsville library polling place in Virginia Beach, Carol Harrison, 59, voted early for the Democratic ticket and stayed to hand out party literature.
“I’m going to lose sleep if Trump wins,” she said.
By 5:20 a.m. Tuesday, there were already 30 people in line waiting to vote. When polls opened at 6, the line stretched a hundred yards down the side of the building and into the parking lot.
The scene was quieter at Lynwood Elementary School in Springfield several hours after polls opened. Democratic voter Steve Chozick, 52, who works in IT for the city of Arlington, said he was “terribly” anxious about the results of the election. He said that he is invested in Democratic policies, but his anxiety isn’t rooted in having the opposite party in power. It’s more about Trump specifically.
“I could live through another Republican administration,” Chozick said. “Not another administration that isn’t interested in governing.”
The real drama on Virginia’s ballot this year involved the 2nd, 5th and 7th district congressional races: The 5th became surprisingly competitive after incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman (R) lost his bid for reelection to Good in a GOP nominating convention.
Analysts predicted that Freitas would have trouble overcoming the increasingly blue vote in the western Richmond suburbs, where the 7th district is anchored. Voters in Chesterfield and Henrico counties had carried Spanberger to victory in 2018, part of a suburban revolt against Trump. But many of those votes remained uncounted Wednesday morning.
One voter who lives just outside Richmond, 40-year-old Amber Vitaliano, said she was so repulsed by harsh anti-Spanberger TV ads that the choice was easy.
“I saw the anti-ads that were bashing her and I said, ‘Okay, that’s who I want to vote for,’ ” she said. “Negative ads just have the opposite effect. I question them.”
In the Virginia Beach area, Luria’s rematch against Taylor turned bitter as smear ads and accusations of lying and scare tactics flew back and forth.
One voter in Virginia Beach, Josh Velazquez, 39, said he voted for Taylor in 2018 but decided to support Luria this time.
“I’ve been seeing her do a lot more for everybody,” he said. “If you’re making a difference, we’re going to hear about it and know about it. And that’s what I’ve been seeing a lot.”
Both Luria and Spanberger voted to impeach Trump in January, acknowledging that those votes could put them at risk in their red districts.
At the Robious polling place outside Richmond, Cliff Harvey, 56, said Spanberger’s vote to impeach Trump belied her pledge to work with both parties.
“We need the lies out,” he said. “Trump might not be a great person, but he seems to keep his promises.”
But Elmore, a former Republican who over the last decade has gravitated toward Democrats, thought Spanberger had done a good job of reaching across the aisle.
“She held all these town halls. She was very engaged,” said Elmore, 65.
The most unexpectedly competitve race played out in the sprawling, mostly rural 5th district, with Webb showing strength after Republicans had appeared divided by the nomination fight.
Good, a former Campbell County board supervisor, ran on a far-right platform as a religious conservative, pledging unwavering support for Trump’s “America First” agenda. Trump won the district by 11 points in 2016 — but lingering bitterness over Riggleman’s ouster and Webb’s made-for-the-times background as a Black doctor allowed him to put the race in play.
Good declared victory at Liberty University as absentee ballots from four historically red counties had yet to be counted, thanking Webb for the “tough race” and Riggleman for his service.
“This was a victory for true conservative principles at the end of the day,” he said. “This will be a victory for the nation’s founding Judeo-Christian principles. And this will be a victory for religious liberty, and the importance of faith and family.”
Webb conceded later, telling supporters that “while this is not the outcome we hoped for, it has truly been an honor to run to represent this district in Congress. . . . Congratulations to Mr. Good for his victory, and I look forward to continuing to engage with him as we move forward from the election in a unified way. ”
Anna Brugmann, Scott Clement, Jim Morrison, Antonio Olivo and Aaron Schaffer contributed to this report.