The Democratic Turnout Myth Unravels

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On Politics

It was agelong thought that surges successful voting would assistance Democrats. So however does the enactment explicate Glenn Youngkin’s victory?

Residents of Fairfax, Va., waited successful  agelong  lines to formed  a ballot early.
Credit...Kenny Holston for The New York Times

Reid J. Epstein

Nov. 4, 2021, 7:11 p.m. ET

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Ever since Barack Obama swept into the White House connected the spot of grounds turnout, it has been an nonfiction of religion among Democrats that the much radical who vote, the amended the enactment volition fare.

When turnout sagged, during the 2010 and the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans won question elections. In 2016, less radical voted than successful 2012 and Donald J. Trump won the presidency, shocking Democrats and turbocharging a much explicit Republican statement that making voting harder would marque it easier for the G.O.P. to triumph elections.

Then turnout jumped again successful the Trump years — successful Virginia 4 years ago, successful peculiar elections and successful the 2018 midterms. Joseph R. Biden Jr. ousted Mr. Trump successful a nationalist predetermination with record-high turnout. Republicans spent the adjacent year, successful states they control, warring to marque it harder to ballot and promoting lies that the 2020 turnout had been stocked with fraudulent Democratic votes.

How past to explicate the predetermination connected Tuesday successful Virginia, wherever Glenn Youngkin, present the Republican governor-elect, bushed erstwhile Gov. Terry McAuliffe successful a contention successful which astatine slightest 25 percent much votes were formed than successful immoderate governor’s contention successful the state’s history? (The fig volition spell up; mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day volition beryllium counted arsenic agelong arsenic they are received by this Friday.)

Mr. Youngkin won the archetypal governor’s contention contested nether new voting laws adopted by the Democratic majorities elected successful 2019 to the state’s General Assembly.

Virginia Democrats and Gov. Ralph Northam repealed the state’s elector ID law, enacted 45 days of no-excuse absentee voting, made Election Day a authorities holiday and enacted automatic elector registration for anyone who receives a driver’s licence successful Virginia.

Making it easier to ballot worked.

In this week’s election, Mr. McAuliffe won 200,000 votes much than Northam did erstwhile helium won the 2017 predetermination successful a blowout. He won astir 600,000 much votes than helium did successful 2013 erstwhile helium bushed Kenneth Cuccinelli II to go governor. He bushed his interior turnout targets successful Northern Virginia, Richmond and the Norfolk area. Turnout was beardown successful Black precincts, assemblage towns and the suburbs, each accepted areas of spot for Democratic candidates.

Yet Mr. Youngkin inactive got much votes, buoyed by turnout adjacent presidential-election levels crossed agrarian Virginia and amended than anticipated numbers successful the outer suburbs of Washington. He won acold much votes than Mr. McAuliffe’s squad oregon virtually immoderate of the nationalist polling had anticipated.

“We’re astatine a unsafe inflection constituent wherever we person 1 radical of radical who assumes turnout solves each of our problems and different radical that wants to tune retired full swaths of voters,” said Guy Cecil, the president of the Democratic ace PAC Priorities USA. “There are millions of radical crossed the state who are inclined to ballot for Trump oregon Republicans who don’t vote.”

In immoderate of the astir important battleground states, similar Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Mr. Cecil said, a bulk of the voting-age nationalist is achromatic radical without assemblage degrees, a demographic that has been trending distant from Democrats since 2008 and broke powerfully against Mr. McAuliffe successful Virginia, according to exit polling.

If turnout successful the 2022 midterms spikes successful Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which some person Senate and governor’s races connected the ballot, it whitethorn not needfully payment the Democratic candidates.

“Higher turnout among Democrats increases our chances of winning,” Mr. Cecil said. “Higher turnout wide does not bash that.”

For Republicans who person spent the past twelvemonth proffering the mendacious assertion that Mr. Biden won the 2020 predetermination lone due to the fact that of a large fraud scheme, the Virginia results required a spot of rhetorical gymnastics.

Amanda Chase, the conspiracy-theory-minded Virginia authorities senator, said connected Twitter connected Wednesday that she would draught legislation to “put the guardrails backmost connected our elections” and added that she hoped Mr. Youngkin agreed to “a afloat forensic audit” of the 2020 statesmanlike election.

Mr. Cuccinelli, the erstwhile Virginia lawyer wide who mislaid to Mr. McAuliffe successful 2013, precocious Wednesday called for Mr. Youngkin and the incoming Republican bulk successful the state’s House of Delegates to “reverse the Democrat-inflicted harm to elector integrity successful our state.”

And John Fredericks, the blimpish speech vigor big who was president of Mr. Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns successful Virginia, credited Mr. Youngkin’s triumph to his gathering an “election integrity task force” to show polling places crossed the state.

“If you person a elector integrity cognition successful spot connected the beforehand extremity and you person 93 percent of your precincts covered with trained canvass watchers and predetermination workers, the accidental for elector irregularities drops dramatically,” Mr. Fredericks said. “The elector integrity squad present volition beryllium utilized arsenic exemplary for the midterms.”

Takeaways From the 2021 Elections


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Mr. Youngkin’s canvass watchers, according to a Washington Post relationship of their activities during aboriginal voting, observed Virginia’s voting process and concluded it was escaped of the fraud that Mr. Trump and others baselessly assertion exists. And determination were nary important reports of elector intimidation from Republican canvass watchers, arsenic Democrats had feared.

What does each of this archer us?

In the existent environment, erstwhile Republicans are furious with an progressively unpopular Democratic president, if Democrats and the White House don’t fig retired a mode to crook their governmental fortunes around, it whitethorn not substance if Democratic candidates scope their turnout goals successful the midterms.

Midterm elections implicit the past decennary person hinged connected whose voters are angrier. Right now, Democrats are arguing among themselves astir authorities they’ve been negotiating for months, portion Republicans person adopted a coded phrase arsenic a stand-in to shout obscenities astir Mr. Biden.

It’s not hard to foretell which side’s voters volition beryllium much anxious to crook retired adjacent year.


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