Low voter turnout expected in Virginia primaries

June primaries typically get low voter turnouts---around 6 percent, because people are busy, and they're unfamiliar with the candidates. The few who do vote will be making some very important decisions for everybody else on Tuesday.

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- June primaries typically get low voter turnouts, around 6%.

The reasons vary. People are busy, they're unfamiliar with the candidates.

So in that way, the few who do vote will be making some very important decisions for everybody else; primarily Tuesday, who Virginia's candidates for governor will be.

At the Young Terrace Precinct in Norfolk, home to 2,800 registered voters, just 127 people had voted by late afternoon.

Voting machines went unused. Precinct workers, in place since 5 a.m., didn't have much to do but wait for somebody, anybody, to show up.

Old Dominion University political science professor Jesse Richman said the turnout is disappointing.

"The primaries historically get low turnout here and everywhere across the country," said Richman. "It's a rare primary that generates attention and enthusiasm. Part of the reason or the low turnout is many people don't feel a strong connection to one candidate or another sufficient to motivate them to turn out."

On the Republican side of the ballot, there are three candidates for governor: Ed Gillespie, Corey Stewart and Frank Wagner.

On the Democratic side, there are two candidates: Tom Perriello, and, Ralph Northam.

Richman says with Virginia being one of only two states in the country with a race for governor this year, the eventual party nominees are sure to get much attention nationally.

"This is going to be intensely examined in terms of an indication of how toxic the political environment is for Republicans going in to 2018, or not," he said. "We'll see how the race shapes up."

Richman says it's a shame more people don't vote, because whoever eventually wins in November will lead the state through a host of important matters in the four years to come.

"Health care, economic development, climate change, a wide range of different issues," he said. "There are big differences between the candidates across parties, but also more subtle differences between candidates within parties. And so that's were it's worth paying some attention and deciding what kind of Republican do you want to have for governor, what kind of Democrat do you want to have running for governor?"

In Virginia, governors cannot succeed themselves, they can serve only one term. It is the only state in the country to have such a law.  However, they can sit out a term, and then run again. The last governor to do that was Mills Godwin. He served from 1966 to 1970 and then, from 1974 to 1978.

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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