Voting in Modern Virginia

computerization, especially Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, has provided new techniques for Get Out The Vote (GOTO) and voter suppression campaigns
computerization, especially Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, has provided new techniques for Get Out The Vote (GOTO) and voter suppression campaigns
Source: Virginia State Board of Elections, Evolution of Virginia Elections

In 1883, a supposed "riot" in Danville was publicized by Democrats as a sign that African-Americans were demanding social and economic equality, beyond the right to vote. The Democrats won control of the General Assembly in that election. After losing the race for governor in 1885, the Readjuster Party dissolved.1

The capacity of Republicans to be elected was low, with the notable exception of the "Fighting Ninth" District for the US House of Representatives in southwestern Virginia. Democrats maintained full control of state government until 1969. The key contests occurred in the Democratic primaries rather than in the general elections, and winning the primary was "tantamount" to election.

Federal legislation and court rulings in the 1960's expanded the electorate, allowing minorities an opportunity to vote and win elections, but primaries have remained a key decision point in determining who will represent a district. In 1966, there were new voters in the 8th Congressional District from redistricting that was required to comply with "one person-one vote" decisions by state and Federal courts. Rep. Howard W. Smith had bee elected nine times, and had risen to become chair of the House Rules Committee.

The more-liberal George W. Rawlings defeated Rep. Smith in the Democratic primary in 1966, and then the Republican candidate (William Scott) defeated Rawlings in the general election.

By the 1990's, Northern Virginia had become a stronghold for liberal Democrats. Once again, victory in the Democratic primary was tantamount to election. In 2003, the race for the District 49 seat in the Virginia House of Delegates attracted little interest. Adam Ebbin won the primary with just 771 votes, then ran unopposed in the general election to become the first openly gay member of the General Assembly.

Political analyst and scholar Larry Sabato noted:2

More votes are cast in an average student council election in high school - but those who show up at the polls rule the world, however few they may be.

in the 2003 primary, the candidate for the District 49 seat in the House of Delegates won with just 771 votes
in the 2003 primary, the candidate for the District 49 seat in the House of Delegates won with just 771 votes
Source: Virginia State Board of Elections, 2003 House of Delegates Democratic Primary - District 49

A single voter's decision occasionally determines who wins a race. In 1991, "Landslide Jim" Scott won the 53rd District seat in the House of Delegates by one vote. That same year, Peter T. Way won the race in the 58th District by the same narrow margin. Races can also end in a tie, after which the winner is chosen "by lot" rather than in a runoff election.3

suffragists who protested at the White House were jailed and force-fed at the Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton, before women gained the right to vote in 1920 after ratification of the 19th Amendment
suffragists who protested at the White House were jailed and force-fed at the Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton, before women gained the right to vote in 1920 after ratification of the 19th Amendment
Source: Architect of the Capitol, Women's Suffrage Parade, 1917

Assigning residents to the correct local, state, and Federal voting districts is the responsibility of local registrars in each county/city. In 2017, an election in Newport News ended in a tie vote, with the winner decided by drawing names from a bowl. Afterwards, it became clear that some voters had been assigned to the wrong precinct.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission reported in 2018 that mis-assignment of voters was not unique to Newport News, in part because local registrars did not use address and boundary data consistently:4

The vast majority of voters potentially assigned to the wrong legislative districts are clustered along localities’ boundaries. This results from discrepancies between state and local definitions of locality boundaries...

The discrepancies between state and local definitions of locality boundaries stem from two factors. First, some localities have informal agreements about the location of a mutual boundary that deviate from locality boundaries as defined by the state...

The second factor contributing to discrepancies between state and local definitions of locality boundaries is that the state and localities do not always use the same maps... In some cases, localities map their jurisdictional boundaries using GIS data that is not from the U.S. Census Bureau...

Not all localities use GIS software to draw precinct boundaries and assign voters to legislative districts. Some registrars still assign voters though manual processes, such as using paper maps and physically driving around the locality.

local registrars assign voters to precincts, but state boundaries and address data may be inconsistent with local decisions
local registrars assign voters to precincts, but state boundaries and address data may be inconsistent with local decisions
Source: Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, Operations and Performance of Virginia’s Department of Elections (Figure 2-13)

Voting in Colonial Virginia

Property Requirements for Voting in Virginia, 1670-1850

Disfranchisement in Virginia

Disfranchising Convicted Felons and Restoring Their Right to Vote

Redistricting in Virginia

Electoral Boards and General Registrars

What Happens If the Vote Ends In a Tie?

Links

References

1. Brendan Wolfe, "Danville Riot (1883)," Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, June 29, 2015, https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Danville_Riot_1883 (last checked June 22, 2017)
2. "Virginia Votes 2003: Not much to remember, not much to forget," University of Virginia Center for Politics, 2003, p.4, http://www.centerforpolitics.org/downloads/vavotes2003.pdf (last checked June 22, 2017)
3. "James M. Scott, Fairfax County delegate in Virginia legislature, dies at 78," Washington Post, April 20, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/james-m-scott-fairfax-county-delegate-in-virginia-legislature-dies-at-78/2017/04/20/f8fa6ac4-251a-11e7-b503-9d616bd5a305_story.html; "Counting recounts," Daily Press, December 12, 2017, http://www.dailypress.com/news/politics/shad-plank-blog/dp-nws-recount-history-20171212-story.html; "Democrat Files Challenge Of 17-Vote Loss In Fairfax Delegate Race," Washington Post, November 26, 1991, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1991/11/26/democrat-files-challenge-of-17-vote-loss-in-fairfax-delegate-race/21643ee6-f3e1-4f20-8243-2bb040152647/; Code of Virginia, Title 24.2. Elections » Chapter 6. The Election » § 24.2-674. Determination by lot in case of tie, https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title24.2/chapter6/section24.2-674/ (last checked December 20, 2017)
4. "Operations and Performance of Virginia’s Department of Elections," Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, Commission Draft, JLARC Report 508, 2018, pp.23-24, http://jlarc.virginia.gov/pdfs/reports/Rpt508.pdf; "Study finds Department of Elections fails to help local registrars, was subject to political influence," Virginia Mercury, September 10, 2018, https://www.virginiamercury.com/2018/09/10/study-finds-department-of-elections-fails-to-help-local-registrars-subject-to-political-influence/ (last checked September 11, 2018)


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