There are many story lines in the analysis of Virginia’s 2017 election results, but turnout is clearly the most prominent explanation for the results. Statewide, voter turnout was up 16% since the last gubernatorial election in 2013. During that same 4-year period, Virginia’s population grew by less than 5 %. While the voter turnout numbers across the state were impressively larger than 4 years before, the real story is how strong those voter increases were in larger population centers, where Democrat candidates have a stronger following.
In Fairfax County, the state’s largest jurisdiction, voter turnout was up 22% over 2015. In adjoining Prince Williams and Loudon Counties, Virginia’s 3rd and 4th largest jurisdictions, turnout on November 7 was up, respectively, 21% and 31%. Meanwhile, in other areas of the state, in rural counties where Republican candidates won by margins of 2-1 or better, turnout increases over 2013 were much more modest: 16% in Augusta County, 14% in Shenandoah, 10% in Buckingham and 8% in Franklin.
In state delegate races where incumbents were upset, turnout was also an important factor. In the 21st Delegate District, a Tidewater area district, the incumbent Republican, Ronald A. Villanueva, was defeated with a voter turnout of twice what it had been in 2015. In the 50th District in Prince Williams County, where the Majority Whip of the House of Delegates was upset, turnout was up by 57%.
A final observation: while voter turnout in the 2017 gubernatorial election was high, the total number voters who cast ballots for Governor on November 7 was just 47 ½ % of the persons who are registered to vote in the state.