UPDATE: Slow and Steady Goes The (Virginia Primary) Race

Super Tuesday rundown on precincts from Belle Haven down to Westgate

UPDATE (March 6, 4:50 p.m.): As of 4:30 p.m., the Belle View precinct had 104 voters and Belle Haven (West Potomac High School) had 136 voters.

Chief election officer Doris McBryde said turnout continues to be steady, but slow. Her colleague at Belle View, Steve Toth, said his precinct slowed down in the afternoon.

UPDATE (March 6, 2:45 p.m.): Just after 2:30 p.m. Fairfax County officials said via Twitter that county-wide turnout was about 1 percent.

UPDATE (March 6, 11:55 a.m.): Turnout at the Belle View and Belle Haven precincts has been steadier than poll workers anticipated. By 11 a.m., each precinct had more than 60 ballots. 

"It’s slow, but I also think it’s slightly more brisk than we originally thought it would be," chief election officer Doris McBryde said from the Springbank Auditorium at .

According to McBryde, voters seemed aware there were only two candidates on the ballot. "I think this is a pretty well-informed precinct," she said.

Steve Toth, chief election officer at , noted a high number of young people and couples with small children that had come out to vote. 

UPDATE (March 6, 10:30 a.m.): Voters in the greater Fort Hunt area trickled into polling booths Tuesday, but elections officials said turnout had been steady throughout the day. Laura Davis, chief elections officer for the Hollin Hall precinct at the , said 87 people had voted as of 11 a.m.

“We expect people to keep coming,” she said. “Polls aren’t going to get the kind of foot traffic the November elections will, but we’re ahead of other precincts I’ve worked, surprisingly so since there are only two candidates on the ballot.”

At the Fort Hunt precinct at , chief elections officer Kathleen Cassidy said 65 people had voted so far Tuesday morning. “It’s been quiet, but steady,” she said.

Turnout was lower in the Hybla Valley precinct at . “We’ve had 20, but it’s kind of slow,” said Sharon McNeil, chief elections officer for the precinct.

UPDATE (March 6, 8:55 a.m.): has seen a light voter turnout this morning although Susan Allen visited the precinct to cast her ballot in the presidential primary.

As of 7:30 a.m., 25 out of 3406 registered voters cast their vote in the Westgate precinct, according to chief election officer Rosemary Jellish.

"It's slow, but it's what we expected," she said of the low turnout.

Allen, whose husband, George, is the former Virginia governor who is running for U.S. Senate, visited her home precinct to thank volunteers and speak with Mount Vernon voters.

"George and I have lived here for 10 years now," said Allen. "Our kids went through seven different schools. We've had a wonderful show of support from the community."

"We feel very fortunate that we have been asked by the Commonwealth to get back in the race so George can carry the banner in Washington," she added.

George Allen will be visiting Washington Mill Elementary School at 3 p.m. to vote and speak with voters.

At 12 out of 1974 registered voters in the Riverside precinct voted as of 7:50 a.m., said chief election officer Anthony Porcaro.

Original story, March 5

As Virginia heads into , the mood is decidedly flat, likely due to the ballot : former Massachusetts Gov. and Texas Congressman .

"I expect a poor turnout. With no real competition, many voters will conclude, 'Why bother?'" said Mark J. Rozell, professor of Public Policy at  in Fairfax.

"Four years ago, it was 9,500 [voters] roughly…in Arlington in the Republican presidential primary," said Mark Kelly, former chairman of the Arlington County Republican Party. "Of course, the Obama-Clinton primary was going on the same day. There was more attention drawn to it as well. I'm guessing lower (this year), just because it doesn't seem like they (the candidates) are really contesting this."

Kelly estimated Arlington's turnout to be between 5,000 and 6,000 on Super Tuesday.

"I don't think that's going to point to the lack of enthusiasm of Republicans for November," Kelly noted. "It's more of a reflection just of the… lack of overall attention that seems to be paid here. I'd have to assume that turnout is going to be lower."

Anthony Bedell, chairman of the Fairfax County Republicans, agreed. "Turnout will be very low," he predicted.

Potential VP McDonnell Encourages Participation

Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has endorsed frontrunner Mitt Romney and , asked that voters turn out on Tuesday, in a conference call with reporters on Monday.

"We have two candidates — Ron Paul and our endorsed candidate Gov. Mitt Romney — and while it [the Virginia primary] is one of 10 races that are being held across the country, we obviously think Virginia is a critically important state," McDonnell said.

"It's said to be a swing state," he said. "It was a state that three, four years ago went for Obama and seven years ago went for President Bush so it certainly has the ability for both Democrats and Republicans to win. That's why most people think Virginia will be a very important state in November. We're asking our Republican activists and Independents who want to vote in the Republican primary, to go out and vote tomorrow."

Is McDonnell, who is oft-discussed as a potential running mate with Romney, serving up Virginia's delegates to Romney on a silver platter? University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabato, in his "Crystal Ball" report, noted Virginia's leaders are Romney supporters and said that Romney will "sweep or nearly sweep" the state and is "guaranteed Virginia" and its 46 delegates up for grabs. 

Because President George W. Bush (R) went unchallenged in 2004, the last comparable GOP presidential primary race to this year's was in 2000 when Vice President Al Gore went unchallenged for the Democrats. Five Republican candidates, including Bush and John McCain, battled for the GOP nomination.

That year, Virginia saw a 17.28 percent turnout. Participation that year was highest in Virginia's 8th Congressional District and lowest in the state's 9th Congressional District.

In Fairfax County in 2000, of the 544,157 registered voters, 126,234 turned out to vote in the GOP presidential primary, a 23.2 percent turnout, said Elections Chief Cameron Quinn.

In 2008, when there was both a Democratic and Republican primary, turnout was about 11 percent statewide, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections.

Patch editors Nicole Trifone and Jason Spencer contributed to this report.


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