virginias election is highlighted by 3 congressional races in newly drawn districts

Three congressional races in newly redrawn districts are drawing the most attention — and money — in Virginia this year.

In each of those races, which could play a role in deciding which party controls the U.S. House, Democratic congresswomen who flipped seats in 2018 are facing spirited challenges.

In northern Virginia’s Democrat-leaning 10th District, Republicans hope retired Navy Capt. Hung Cao can pull off a win over incumbent Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a former state senator and prosecutor.

In the 7th District — which used to include some of suburban Richmond but was shifted north — GOP challenger Yesli Vega hopes to block Rep. Abigail Spanberger from a third term. The district leans slightly blue and Spanberger, a former CIA officer, has far outraised Vega, a local elected official. But national Republicans are also targeting the seat and investing heavily.

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The race in coastal Virginia’s military-heavy 2nd District pits two Navy veterans, Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria and Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans, against each other.

Virginia’s other eight congressional races are generally seen as safe for the incumbents.

With its unusual off-year election schedule, Virginia has no statewide races or ballot initiatives this year.

Republican 7th District candidate Yesli Vega, speaks to supporters on June 22, 2022, in Woodbridge, Virginia. Vega will face Democrat Abigail Spanberger in the November election. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:

Election Night

Polls close at 7 p.m. ET.

How Virginia Votes

Once a key swing state, Virginia trended blue for years thanks to the growth of its more diverse and liberal suburban and urban areas. Former President Donald Trump’s unpopularity in the state also helped accelerate Democratic gains.

But the GOP thinks it’s making lasting inroads. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin won last year by about two points a year after President Joe Biden won the state by 10.On the road recently with candidates, he’s made the case that the voters will reject Biden’s agenda and send more Virginia Republicans to Congress.

Most Virginians vote in-person, either through early voting or on Election Day. Early in-person voting is open to all voters in Virginia, as is voting by mail. In the 2018 general election, 10% of voters cast their ballots before Election Day. The share of advance votes increased to 63% in the 2020 general election, after the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

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All voters can cast advance votes, in person or by mail, without an excuse. In past primaries, fewer than 10% of Virginia voters cast advance votes. However, the share jumped to 63% in the 2020 general election.

In past elections, Virginia has counted nearly all the votes on election night, which should enable race calls in all but the closest races. Virginia counted 1.2% of ballots cast after Election Day in the 2018 general election and 3% in the 2020 general election.

Decision Notes

AP will tabulate and declare winners in 11 U.S. House primaries in Virginia. In the 2020 general election, AP first reported results at 7:03 p.m. ET and 90% of results at 9:30 a.m. the next day.

Mail ballots begin being processed before Election Day. Mail and early in-person votes are released on election night as separate precincts in each county and city. The timing isn’t uniform, with some counties releasing them at the beginning of the night and others at the end.

The AP does not make projections and will only declare a winner when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap.

Should a candidate declare victory or offer a concession before the AP calls a race, we will cover newsworthy developments in our reporting. In doing so, we will make clear that the AP has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

The AP may call a statewide or U.S. House race in which the margin between the top two candidates is 0.5% or less, if we determine the lead is too large for a recount to change the outcome. Virginia doesn’t have automatic recounts but the state will pay for a candidate-requested recount if the margin between the top two candidates is 0.5 percentage points or less.

The AP will not call down-ballot races on election night if the margin between the top two candidates is less than 2% or if the leading candidate is within 2% of the 50% runoff threshold. The AP will revisit those races later in the week to confirm there aren’t enough outstanding votes left to count that could change the outcome.

Q: What Else Should I Know?

A: Just as Youngkin’s 2021 win was closely watched as a bellwether for this year’s midterms, the results of Nov. 8 will be scrutinized for hints of what next year may portend. All 100 seats in the House of Delegates and 40 in the state Senate will be on the ballot.

Virginia’s off-year legislative elections and status as a quasi-swing state make it an attractive place for out-of-state groups to get involved, which boosts attention on the races and sometimes nationalizes the debate.

Q: What Did We Learn From the Primary?

A: The GOP’s sweep of Virginia’s 2021 statewide elections appeared to energize the Republican field, leading to a surge in candidates. Each of the GOP nominees in the 2nd, 7th and 10th District faced crowded nominating contests, while none of the Democratic incumbents had a primary challenger, allowing them to stack cash for the general election.

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Q: What’s Changed Since the Pandemic Election of 2020?

A: Voters are not voting by mail in 2022 at the same rate they did in 2020. In 2020, almost 2.7 million Virginians cast absentee ballots. As of October 28 this year, 698,431 voters had requested absentee ballots.

Q: What Do Turnout and Advance Vote Look Like?

A: As of October 28, some 519,224 Virginians have voted early, more than half of them in person.

Q: What Do Turnout and Advance Vote Look Like?

A: Virginia counts votes quicker than many other states. In 2020, only 3% of votes were counted after noon on the Wednesday following Election Day.

Q: What Happens After Tuesday?

A: Counties and cities across Virginia will continue to process any absentee ballots that were postmarked by Election Day. Counties and cities may carry on verifying the status of any provisional ballots cast on Election Day. These ballots counted after Election Day have not typically changed the outcome of races, except in limited circumstances.

Read Up on the Races

Voters in the 2nd District got three chances to hear Luria and Kiggans debate, included during a combative meeting before an audience of business leaders in mid-October. Wexton and Cao also debated, but Vega and Spanberger did not.

Quotable

“She’s an election denier.” — Luria about Kiggans, who has refused to say plainly in interviews that Biden legitimately won the 2020 election

“Maybe, because there’s so much going on in the body. I don’t know.” — Vega, during a campaign event when asked if it was harder for a woman to get pregnant if she had been raped

“I fought and bled for this country. I’m an American. And she calls me the same name she calls a terrorist.” — Cao, complaining during a debate that Wexton had cast him as an extremist

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