Election 2020: Key races to watch in Virginia, how to vote and what to know

2020 Election
Election 2020 Pennsylvania Mail-In Voting

Early voting stickers (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Despite Election Day being a week away, voters in Virginia have been casting their ballots at an unprecedented rate.

The 2020 election has been unlike any other due to the coronavirus pandemic, driving lawmakers and voters to adapt to changes made in response to the virus. The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to make voting easier in the commonwealth, including a few measures specifically for this election cycle.

Early voting in Virginia has surged since Sept. 18, the day it began, after a new law permitting no-excuse absentee voting went into effect in July. In previous elections, voters were required to provide a qualifying excuse to vote absentee or early in the commonwealth.

People worried about crowded polling places on Election Day, going to the post office or mailing in their ballot have been voting early or dropping off their ballots. Voters in Virginia have until Oct. 23 to request a ballot in the mail and until Halloween to vote early at their local registrar’s office.

Some of the ballot drop boxes in the region differ depending on locality, with Chesterfield’s (left) and Hanover’s (right) each located at the local registrar’s office. (photos taken by 8News’ Dean Mirshahi)

Those who submit a ballot through the mail can track it online as all absentee ballots in Virginia have a bar code on them with an individual number posted on it.

The deadline to register to vote in Virginia was Oct. 13, however it was extended through Oct. 15 by a federal judge after a fiber-optic cable near a data center in Chesterfield County was “inadvertently” severed, shutting down the Department of Election’s internet service for several hours on what was the last day to register.

A spokeswoman for Virginia’s Department of Elections told 8News that after the extension was granted, there were 14,337 new or updated voter registrations from Oct. 14 to Oct. 15.

With the registration deadline now passed, voters can focus squarely on who and what is on the ballot in Virginia.

While the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden has garnered most of the nation’s attention, there are several contests in Virginia that can reshape the political landscape in Congress and in certain localities in the commonwealth.

The U.S. Senate race

Daniel Gade (left; photo courtesy of Gade’s campaign) and Sen. Mark Warner (right; photo courtesy of Congress.gov)

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Daniel Gade are facing off for Warner’s seat in the U.S. Senate in November.

Warner, a former Virginia governor seeking his third term in the Senate, is running in a state where Republicans have not won a statewide race in over a decade and has outraised his GOP challenger by a wide margin. Gade is a professor at American University and a retired Army lieutenant colonel who had his leg amputated after being wounded in Iraq.

WATCH: A conversation with Sen. Mark Warner on COVID-19, a second stimulus package, health care and his race against Daniel Gade

WATCH: A conversation with Daniel Gade, the Republican facing Mark Warner in Virginia Senate race

The U.S. Congressional races

All 11 of Virginia’s Congressional seats are up for grabs this year, with a few highly contested races, some lowkey contests and one incumbent who is running unopposed. You can find a map of all the congressional districts here.

Virginia’s 1st Congressional District seat: Rep. Robert Wittman (R-Va.) and Democratic candidate Qasim Rashid

Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District seat: Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and Republican candidate Scott Taylor and Independent candidate David Bruce Foster

Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District seat: Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) and Republican candidate John W. Collick Jr.

Virginia’s 4th Congressional District seat: Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) and Republican candidate Leon Benjamin Sr.

Virginia’s 5th Congressional District seat: Democratic candidate Cameron Webb and Republican candidate Robert G. “Bob” Good

Virginia’s 6th Congressional District seat: Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) and Democratic candidate Nicholas A. Betts

Virginia’s 7th Congressional District seat: Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Republican candidate Nick Freitas

Virginia’s 8th Congressional District seat: Rep. Donald Beyer (D-Va.) and Republican candidate Jeff A. Jordan

Virginia’s 9th Congressional District seat: Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.)

Virginia’s 10th Congressional District seat: Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) and Republican candidate Aliscia N. Andrews

Virginia’s 11th Congressional District seat: Rep. Gerald E. “Gerry” Connolly (D-Va.) and Republican candidate Manga A. Anantatmula

Richmond’s mayoral race

The first general debate of the Richmond mayoral race was held at Virginia Union University and hosted by 8News and the university

Mayor Levar Stoney is seeking reelection in a five-way race with one notable city official, Councilwoman Kim Gray, and three first-time candidates: Alexsis Rodgers, Justin Griffin and Tracey McLean. In order for a mayoral candidate to take the seat, they must win at least five of the city’s nine districts.

Gray, who represents the city’s 2nd District, has been critical of Stoney’s proposal to redevelop downtown Richmond with the Navy Hill project and called for a special prosecutor to investigate the mayor’s handling of the removal of the city’s Confederate statues.

Rodgers, the Virginia state director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance who served as Gov. Ralph Northam’s policy director when he was lieutenant governor, raised more than $122,000 in the latest filing period.

Griffin, an attorney, has campaigned on improving Richmond Public Schools, roads in the city and developing a new standard to ensure Richmond residents “get quality, timely services from the city.” 

McLean, who is a small business owner, has based her platform on providing financial transparency, informing city residents and unifying communities.

Candidates vying for Richmond City Council seats

Richmond voters will also decide who sits on the City Council during this year’s election.

The City Council, made up of nine members who are elected to part-time, four-year terms, creates and amends local laws, sets policies for the city, appoints members to boards and commissions in the city and approves the annual budget.

There are 20 candidates vying for the seats, with some incumbents facing staunch competition while two are running unopposed. You can find 8News’ full Q&A with the candidates for Richmond City Council here.

Stay with 8News for updates to this election guide.

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