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Virginia's Democrats are scheduled to go to the polls tomorrow to select candidates for November's general election. Officials expect a turnout of one to four percent, which is anywhere between 50,000 and 200,000 voters.
"If you wanted to set up a primary system where almost nobody came, you would do it almost exactly the way that Virginia does it," says University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth.
This is because, first, the election is in an odd year, when some people aren't thinking about politics. Second, it's in June, when many people are thinking about vacations and weddings. And perhaps most importantly, the top of the ticket has already been decided after nobody opposed former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe for nomination to run as governor.
"This is a friends and neighbors prospect with this primary," he says. "It's all about who you know and whether your know them well enough to cajole them into turning out on Tuesday."
Today's primary features two state senators, one from Loudoun County and the other from the Norfolk area, running to be candidate for attorney general. Farnsworth points out that both of the state senators come from swing districts.
"McDonnell won both of those districts about 55 percent. So a strong Republican candidate in a special election would be more than viable," he says.
For lieutenant governor, voters will choose between state Senator Ralph Northam and first-time candidate Aneesh Chopra, who served as a chief technology officer for both Governor Tim Kaine and President Barack Obama. If Northam wins, Farnsworth says, Democrats need to be careful about how they fill the seat in the state Senate which is evenly divided.
"Democrats may end up going through this huge process to figure out a way to break the tie in a 20-20 Senate, and then it become a 21-19 Senate anyway because they blow a special election or two," he says.
In the race for attorney general, voters will choose between state Senator Mark Herring of Loudoun County and former federal prosecutor Justin Fairfax. If Herring wins, Democrats may be facing yet another special election in a district that McDonnell won in 2009.
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.