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Editorial: Your vote really, really matters

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Voting in Lynchburg (copy)

In this Nov. 3, 2020 file photo, “I voted” stickers cover a table at Bedford Hills Elementary School in Lynchburg.

Exercise your power.

If you’re reading these words today, and you’ve already stood in line at your polling precinct to fill out your ballot and turn it in for tallying, or if in the days or weeks prior, you mailed in your early ballot, or dropped it off at the registrar’s office (with a proper witness signature on your envelope, let’s not forget) — Well, wonderful! Congratulations!

You have exercised the power that our democracy grants you, you have participated in shaping our government, and we salute you.

If you’ve not done those things, and the polls haven’t closed, June Carter Cash and her first husband Carl Smith have a message for you: “Time’s a-wastin’.”

By the way, if you received a ballot in the mail, and you filled in the wrong oval because you were distracted, that is still no excuse for not following through and voting. Bring your ballot and all the envelopes and materials that you received in the mail to the registrar’s office and they will get you sorted out so that you can properly dispose of the old ballot and cast your vote using a new one. The process is sensible and secure.

Go vote. We could come up with all sorts of inspirational reasons why you should do your civic duty, but frankly, in this particular election, we don’t need to tie ourselves in knots explaining why your vote matters.

We’re choosing a new governor and a new lieutenant governor and picking who gets to be attorney general, and in each case, polls show the contest as practically neck and neck.

With only a week to go before Election Day, a Suffolk University poll declared that Democrat and former governor Terry McAuliffe and first-time Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin are practically tied.

Though Virginia Democrats have won every statewide election post-2009, largely hinged on the deep-blue voting population clustered in the D.C. suburbs, the reasons for this race being too close to call aren’t as mysterious as they might seem at first.

McAuliffe’s job approval ratings stayed in the black throughout his term as governor, sure. Yet he’s still a transplant from New York, primarily known for political fundraisers, with close ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton. His record as governor provides plenty of ammunition for critics. His candidacy is not one that energizes Democrats.

McAuliffe’s first election victory in 2013 broke the usual trend, sometimes referred to as the “White House jinx,” wherein voters pick a governor who belongs to the party opposite the one holding the presidency. Notably, though, the opponent McAuliffe defeated by a whisker was former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a science denier and homophobe whom Democrats despised with the same zeal that they despise Trump — and who went on to serve in the Trump administration.

That Trump-ian tar hasn’t been sticking to Glenn Youngkin, much as McAuliffe has tried to make it so. Youngkin’s clean political slate spells potential trouble for McAuliffe.

So far, the wealthy private equity executive from Northern Virginia seems to be getting away with having it both ways, avoiding an appearance with Trump and his Svengali Steve Bannon in Chesterfield County while dropping hints that he’s on board with Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

Recently he ran an ad that ties his campaign to a Republican activist who attempted to get the the novel “Beloved” by American Nobel laureate and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Toni Morrison banned from a Fairfax County school curriculum.

Democrats have cried foul, but Youngkin’s supporters, not so much. He is managing to invigorate Republicans of multiple stripes who desperately want to reclaim control of state government.

The history-making race for lieutenant governor between Republican Winsome Sears and Democrat Hala Ayala isn’t being watched as closely, but the newest poll released by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Civic Leadership shows Ayala with a lead so slender it might as well be a tie. Politically these candidates are nearly polar opposites, but whoever wins will be the first woman of color elected to one of Virginia’s statewide offices.

Similarly, the national press isn’t keeping close tabs on Republican challenger Jason Miyares’ attempt to unseat Attorney General Mark Herring, but the Wason Center poll shows Herring with only a 1-point lead, well within the margin of error, leaving no room for relaxation.

Virginians whose memories stretch back to the 1990s probably still find the Old Dominion’s identity as a blue state — or at least “blue-ish,” as Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics puts it — a bit shocking: a refreshing or alarming change, depending on where you stand.

This election will put that identity to the test. The Wason Center poll notes a surge in Republican enthusiasm, 85% compared to 65% for Democrats.

We surely want to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2017, when control of the House of Delegates hinged on a Virginia Board of Elections official drawing a name from a bowl. Based on that drawing, a Republican incumbent kept his seat and his party maintained a 51-49 majority.

Just one or two more votes, and the entire strange ceremony would have been unnecessary.

The handcrafted bowl used for the drawing was provided by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. Let’s keep that piece of artwork on its shelf this year.

These words aren’t about picking sides. They’re meant to remind you that your input is the most important part of all of this.

Regardless of which candidates you like most, or like least, your vote will definitely bear weight in whether they get to take the oath of office, or get prevented from doing so. Want to break Virginia’s blue streak? Want to make it unassailable? Get out and vote.

— Adapted from an editorial in The Roanoke Times

— Adapted from an editorial in The Roanoke Times

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