Over 1.1 Million Early Votes Cast in Virginia Governor's Race, McAuliffe Claims Advantage

The Virginia governor's race started strong with early voting as Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin encouraged supporters to get out and vote early, with McAuliffe telling Democrats they have a "big lead on the early vote," although polling showed the opposite, the Associated Press reported.

McAuliffe claims to be confident he will be reelected after serving as governor from 2014 to 2018, despite his party scrambling to regain the lead after public polling has shifted in Youngkin's direction in recent weeks.

Saturday marked the final day of Virginia's early voting, as more than 1.1 million out of the state's 5.9 million registered voters early this year, according to state data published by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.

The numbers of early voters are drastically down from the 2.8 million in last year's presidential election.

McAuliffe spokeswoman Christina Freundlich said the campaign is not worried about the numbers and expects many Democrats to revert to pre-coronavirus voting habits this year, favoring in-person voting on Election Day.

Still, at the Henrico rally, McAuliffe claimed Democrats had a "big lead on the early vote."

McAuliffe told supporters during his campaign that "the stakes are huge" in the race as he reminded them of his record as governor.

"I've done this job before. I was the most pro-business pro-progressive. I made this state open and welcoming, created a lot of jobs. We do not want to go back," McAuliffe said.

Along his campaign trail, McAuliffe has brought in supporters including President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama, and celebrities such Dave Matthews and Pharrell Williams.

Youngkin predicted Republicans would sweep all three statewide races and take back the state's House of Delegates, and voiced his optimism at a rally.

"This is a moment for us to make a statement that big government control is going to lose and liberty and freedom in Virginia are going to win," Youngkin said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe
The Virginia governor’s race started strong with early voting as Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin encouraged supporters to get out and vote early. McAuliffe told Democrats they have a “big lead on the early vote,” although polling shows the opposite. Above, McAuliffe speaks to supporters during a rally in Richmond on October 31, 2021. Steve Helber/Associated Press

After campaigning across northern Virginia on Saturday, Youngkin departed for the far southwest tip of the state, a Republican stronghold, on Sunday. Stops along his bus tour included a prayer breakfast, a worship service, a barbecue at the home of a powerful state lawmaker, a meet-and-greet in the state's farthest-flung corner and an evening get-out-the-vote rally.

McAuliffe, who preceded Democrat Ralph Northam as governor in the only state that doesn't allow its executive to serve consecutive terms, spent Saturday in the state's southeastern corner before making stops Sunday in suburban Richmond and northern Virginia.

Legislation passed in 2020 eliminated the need to provide one of a certain number of limited excuses to vote absentee. Now any qualified voter can cast a ballot starting 45 days before the election.

Voters don't register by party in Virginia, so the partisan split of the early vote wasn't immediately clear. But McAuliffe's campaign pointed to what they considered "strong" numbers in blue-leaning localities in northern Virginia as a sign momentum was on their side.

Republicans, despite generally opposing the Democrats' election reforms, have also encouraged their supporters to vote early this year.

In southwest Virginia, where Youngkin spent Sunday, the rate of early voting was well below the state as a whole, according to a VPAP analysis.

Strong turnout there on Election Day could help boost Youngkin as he looks to overcome the structural advantage of northern Virginia's blue tilt.

The hectic pace of campaigning was set to continue Monday. Both candidates were to crisscross the state, each with stops in Roanoke, Virginia Beach, the Richmond area and northern Virginia.

Polls will be open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Glenn Youngkin
Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin speaks at a campaign rally on October 31, 2021, in Abingdon, Virginia. Above, Youngkin on the final day of a bus tour campaign through southwest Virginia in his race against Democratic candidate and former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)