In about two and a half hours, polls across the Commonwealth of Virginia will be closed. At that time, we shall discover the 2012 Republican nominee for Senate as well as the various Republican and Democratic nominees for the eleven House of Representatives districts.
During the late morning and afternoon hours, I visited eleven precincts in the city of Harrisonburg and southern Rockingham County. My purpose in doing so was to gauge campaign supply levels for the Kwiatkowski and Radtke campaigns and measure the level of turnout. While doing so, I discovered a couple of surprising facts.
First, I noticed that the race for House of Representatives in the 6th district seems to have drawn considerable more interest and enthusiasm than the Senate race. All eleven precincts had a pretty high number of Kwiatkowski and Goodlatte signs. In addition, about half of the precincts had volunteers who were handing out materials specifically on behalf of one of these two candidates.
By comparison, there were far fewer Senate signs. Jamie Radtke and George Allen had about the same number of yard signs at the polls, Bob Marshall had but a handful, and I have not seen yet seen my first E.W. Jackson sign today. When considering campaign workers, Bob Marshall had a dedicated volunteer handing out materials at one of the precincts in the city, but, surprisingly, I have not found any volunteers specifically working for George Allen, Jamie Radtke, or E. W. Jackson in my travels.
Second, turnout seems to be higher than I expected. I assumed that we would see about a 5-6% turnout rate on average at the end of the day, which was the result for the March 6th Republican presidential primary. In addition, it was fairly hot and humid with periods of heavy rain on and off during the day, which would decrease participation. However, many precincts have already exceeded their March total. For example, the tiny precinct of Cross Keys, although only reporting 51 votes as of 3:24 PM, had a turnout rate of 8.9% thus far. An hour and a half prior, Montezuma, another precinct in Rockingham County, reported 7.2%.
So what does this information reflect? Why are the Senate candidates underrepresented at the polls? And do these Harrisonburg and Rockingham numbers reflect a general trend that voters taking a greater interest in the outcome of these races? Does the increased turnout favor the incumbents with their higher level of voter ID? Or have voters come out today to roundly reject what some perceive as establishment Republicans? Without exit polling it is difficult to answer any of these questions right now. However, keep an eye on the totals; either way, it should be interesting.