By Joe Garland, Director – Analytics 

In the months leading up to the election in Virginia, much was made about Governor Youngkin and the Republican party’s investment in early voting, a stark contrast to the consistent criticism of the practice from former President Trump and many of his staunch supporters. Despite the Democratic sweep in Virginia, TargetSmart set out to answer the all-important question: was the Republican early vote push successful? Let’s take a look at what we found. 

Republican Early Voters Increase

  • Now that we have all of the early vote in, it’s clear that Republicans successfully mobilized more of their voters to cast early ballots than in previous cycles.  
  • Modeled Republicans accounted for 31.7% of all early votes in the 2023 election, a 2% increase over GOP early vote turnout in 2021, a year where Republicans flipped the governor’s mansion and the House of Delegates.
  • In targeted legislative districts, Republican early vote turnout increased by almost 4% over 2021. 
  • The GOP also made gains among First Time voters, resulting in a +.7% turnout increase over 2021 numbers. This comparison is a bit more complicated, as this universe of voters changes with each cycle.

Despite the Increase, Democrats Sweep 

If Republican early vote turnout was up over previous elections, why didn’t that increase pay off in the results? 

The most important thing to remember is that while every vote counts the same, to operatives, not all early votes are created equally. What do we mean by that?

Early vote is most potent as a tactic when candidates or parties are able to turn out moderate or low propensity voters who may not vote on election day. Simply banking early voters who are highly likely to vote regardless of the circumstances is helpful, but only on the margins. 

  • To this end, GOP early vote turnout amongst Super Voters, or voters who cast a ballot in the last 4 elections, was up over 7% over 2021. It’s overwhelmingly likely that Super Voters were going to vote anyway, so the GOP early vote push had little net-positive effect on this universe of voters. 
  • Early vote turnout amongst modeled Republicans age 18-49 was also down from 2021, meaning the majority of the increase in turnout came from the age bracket Republicans typically fare best with in elections year in and year out. 

So, yes, Republicans did see early voting turnout increase from previous elections, but it’s unclear what effect it ultimately had on the 2023 elections. What we know for sure though, is that it wasn’t enough to propel them to victory in their bid to gain control of the General Assembly. Stay tuned @TargetSmart as we continue to analyze the Virginia election data as it becomes available.