Early figures show steady voter turnout in Tuesday's election

13News Now reporter Laura Geller is in Richmond, inside Gillespie's election night watch party.

Richmond, Va. (WVEC) -- Early figures showed a steady turnout Tuesday after an increase in early voting.

There are a lot of factors that can affect whether or not people will actually go to the polls. In a tight race like this one, political analysts and candidates know turnout is what makes the difference in who ends up in the governor's mansion.

In years without presidential contests, turnout is already low. In Virginia's last gubernatorial election, only about 41% of eligible voters showed up at the polls.

For comparison, in the 2016 presidential election the turnout rate was in the 70's.

Virginia Commonwealth University Associate Professor of Political Science, Dr. Deirdre Condit explained candidates Ed Gillespie and Ralph Northam had to find ways to turn enthusiasm into actual votes.

“It's about making a contact with the voter and the candidates and having it be what we call salient, (which is) so important that they will brave the rain, they will get the babysitter, they will get their paper turned in early and go vote,” she told 13News Now.

Past voting patterns might give insight into what turnout will be this year.

“The democrats have nationalized the election,” Condit stated. “They have focused on the top of the ticket at the presidential level. The republicans have been playing an interesting long game. They have been looking at the local level elections and the statewide elections. So, what we know is in off year elections, the democrats have a lower tendency to turn out than the republicans.”

Condit said this year Virginia democrats changed their tactics.

“Television changed politics for a long time and radio and now the cell phone, social media, politics looked like it had oozed away from the personal touch,” Condit told us. “The democrats have gone back to this election with this serious one-on-one, knock on doors, talk their candidate up campaign and I think that will be interesting to see if that actually increases turn out.”

Tuesday, voters across much of the Commonwealth had to brave the rain to get to their precincts. That could suppress turnout.

“It matters if you look at the weather map, where it's going to rain today and when it's going to rain,” Condit added. “That can tell you an awful lot.”

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