Virginia Voter Turnout Slightly Lower Than in Previous Years; One Race Still Too Close to Call

By Matt Cover | November 10, 2011 | 9:31 AM EST

( – Voter turnout in Virginia’s statewide election appears to have been slightly lower than it was in previous years, despite Republican hopes of regaining control of the state Senate.

While Virginia’s voter turnout figures are still preliminary – omitting provisional and absentee ballots – they reveal that turnout in this off-off year election followed a declining trend.

According to’s calculations – based on preliminary state data – turnout in state Senate races averaged 28.19 percent while turnout in House of Delegates races averaged 26.13 percent.

These figures, which will most likely be revised upward in the coming days as election officials count provisional and absentee ballots, are slightly lower than the previous two off-off year elections – elections in which there were no federal candidates and no statewide executive candidates.

Those races – in 2007 and 2003 – saw turnout of 30.2 percent and 30.8 percent, respectively, following a trend of steadily declining voter participation in Virginia.

Many elections in 2011 – particularly in the House of Delegates – went uncontested, a factor that typically drives down voter turnout. Some of those races saw turnout from the low teen to the single digits, reflecting the fact that voters don’t feel the need to participate in uncompetitive elections.

Two days after the election, a key Virginia Senate race remains too close to call without a recount. If that race goes to the Republican candidate – who had a double-digit lead – the 40-seat Virginia Senate will be evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

Going into the election, Republicans thought they had a good chance of wresting outright control of the state Senate from Democrats with a three-seat pick-up. Two seats is the most they can hope for now that the voting is done.

Virginia voters went for Obama in 2008, but they elected Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2009. Obama is expected to have a more difficult time carrying the commonwealth in 2012.