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Virginia Elections: High Stakes, But Low Turnout Expected

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Virginia voters head to the polls tomorrow.
Michael Pope
Virginia voters head to the polls tomorrow.

Despite the fact that control of the Virginia State Senate hangs in the balance, turnout overall is expected to be low for tomorrow's elections. Turnout projections range from a high end of 35 percent in Fairfax County to 12 percent in Alexandria. That's because many voters don't think local and state elections are important, according to Michael McDonald, a professor of government and politics at George Mason University.

"The irony is that your vote for president probably has less influence over your ordinary life than your vote for your local or state elected officials," says McDonald.

At stake tomorrow is a majority of the Virginia Senate. Republicans need to take control of only three seats to wrest control. Polling conducted by Christopher Newport University political science professor Quentin Kidd shows that Republicans are paying far more attention to the election than Democrats.

"The question is -- is that momentum enough to knock off sitting Democrats in districts that might be drawn to help the Democrat," says Kidd.

Democrats were in control of the redistricting process in the Senate that created new maps this year. But University of Virginia Center for Politics political analyst Kyle Kondik says the Republicans have momentum and energy.

"I think it's helpful to them that they have a popular Republican governor here in Virginia, Bob McDonnell," says Kondik. "It's also helpful that there's an unpopular Democratic president. I don't think Obama is particularly helpful to some of these downstate candidates."

Kondik thinks odds that the Republicans will win three seats and take control of the state Senate are somewhat good.

"I'd say they're better than 50-50 but not tremendously better than 50-50. I'd say maybe 60-40," says Kondik. "I'd say the Republicans have a decent shot, but it's by no means guaranteed."

Kidd warns that Republicans have to maintain control of all their current seats. "Republicans have to save or keep those seats in Republican hands and take three seats from the Democrats," says Kidd. "So, it's a tall order. I think it's going to be a late night Tuesday." 

The polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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