To boost Virginia turnout,
get rid of off-year election
Since the recent Election Day, the media have touted that Virginians turned out in droves to choose our governor. Voter turnout was a bit more than 55%, the highest in a governor’s race since 1993, which is a positive sign.
But assessing turnout in gubernatorial elections is too limited in scope: Compared with presidential elections, 55% no longer is impressive. In each of the past eight gubernatorial elections, voter turnout in Virginia has been at least 20 percentage points lower than in the presidential election the year before. That's the equivalent of about 1.2 million voters today.
If higher turnout is better for democracy, state leaders should consider promoting an amendment to the Virginia Constitution stipulating that the governor’s term (and those of down-ticket officeholders) that begins in January 2026 should last three years.
By allowing future statewide races to align with presidential elections, participation in Virginia democracy will be higher. The state also would benefit from additional election security and would save millions of dollars by eliminating a costly election process.