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Charlottesville and Albemarle County get bluer

Republican Representative Bob Good’s victory over the Democrat Josh Throneburg was unsurprising to pollsters. But Throneburg’s strength in Charlottesville and Albemarle County indicates a strengthening trend in the area.

“What was surprising to me was looking at the locality by locality returns. It really is getting to be Charlottesville and Albemarle County against the rest of the district,” said J. Miles Coleman, a political cartographer at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Throneburg outperformed President Joe Biden in the city and the county, though he received less of the vote than Biden in the rest of the district.

“We’re sort of going our own way compared to everything else,” Coleman said. “It’s unfortunate for those of us in Charlottesville.”

The incumbent Republican Good won Virginia’s 5th District with 57.85% of the vote, as of Wednesday morning. That number may change, but all precincts have reported their Election Day votes, and just 1.2% of early votes remain uncounted, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Throneburg, with slightly under 42% of the vote, did worse than other Democrats who vied for the 5th District’s House seat. In 2020, Cameron Webb earned 47.26% of the vote. Leslie Cockburn received 46.65% of the vote in Virginia’s last midterm election in 2018.

“Throneburg didn’t get as much help as those other candidates got…I think the expectation from a lot of people was that this isn’t a competitive race,” Coleman said.

Throneburg said the same at Buford Middle School on Oct. 31, after telling a crowd of students that the Democratic Party and political action committees contributed less than $1,000 to his campaign.

Turnout for early voting in Charlottesville and Albemarle County has been unusually high. In the county, almost triple the number of people have voted early this election as in 2018; early voting in the city is more than double what it was in 2018, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

This election was also the first year that voters could enjoy same-day registration. Instead of having to register by Oct. 17, people could register to vote up to and including Election Day and cast a provisional ballot.

People who advocated for same-day registration believed it would enable more people to vote.

“We knew from states that had gone before us that it would be a game changer for turnout, especially among young people, especially among students, but to see it play out in front of our eyes has been so rewarding,” said Del. Sally Hudson, who helped pass the voting reforms that enabled same-day registration.

Despite this, turnout in the 5th District overall lagged behind previous years. So far, 300,694 votes have been counted in the 5th District. In 2020, 400,890 people voted; in 2018, that number was 310,379. There are more than 630,000 voters in the district, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Many politicians and activists believe that higher voter turnout tends to favor Democrats. This is reinforced by the fact that Democrats push for reforms that make it easier to vote, while Republicans complain that such measures open the door to voter fraud.

“It can cut both ways,” Coleman said. Republican voters are no less likely than Democratic voters to take advantage of things like same-day registration.

Control of the House of Representatives and the Senate remains uncertain. Good previously told The Daily Progress the reason he had not passed a single bill was the Democratic majority in both chambers. Coleman thinks it’s unlikely Good will begin legislating regardless of which party wins the House and Senate.

“Bob Good is a complainer,” said Coleman.


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