Blogging Virginia 2011

7 years ago by in 2011, Uncategorized Tagged: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Observer’s blog from throughout the 2011 Virginia vote featuring updates on election results and highlights from Virginia Votes, the Observer’s live election day broadcast.

8:51 p.m. EST

Reporter Michael Harris just joined anchor Erica Morrison on set to talk about voter identification laws across the nation. Virginia is one of 34 states that considered expanding or implementing voter ID laws this year.

Michael said the people that would be hurt most by voter ID legislation are the poor and minorities.

Updates from Jimm:

  • Senate District 31
             Barbara Favola (D) 71% 11,301
             Caren Merrick (R) 29% 4,650
             47 % Precincts Reporting
  • Senate District 29
            Charles Colgan (D) 53% 3,458
            Tom Gordy (R) 47% 3,073
            22 % Precincts Reporting

The election edition of the American Observer doesn’t stop after tonight! What to expect tomorrow:

  • A post-election wrap up from polling analyst Jimm Phillips, including full results for the Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate
  • An analysis from Richard Benedetto, former White House correspondent for USA Today and professor at American University

Don’t forget to check @AUObserver for election results!
8:40 p.m. EST

Reporter Brittney Hood just joined David Schultz on set to talk about her experience at a polling place in Alexandria.

  • Brittney said everyone she talked to was very enthusiastic about voting but some people didn’t feel that this election was that important.Most people, according to Brittney, thought citizens need to come out and vote no matter how big (or small) the election.
  • Brittney used to work in a polling place at Georgia. She talked about special rules that media have to follow at polling places, including staying 40 feet away from the polling place so voters can have privacy when voting.

Updates from Jimm:

  • Senate District 39:
           George Barker (D-Incumbent) 70%
          Miller Baker (R) 30%
         About 15 percent of precincts reporting.

Last segment coming up next. Stay tuned!

8:25 p.m. EST

Reporter Maria Hallas was just on camera talking about House District 34, which is an open seat. Aside from not having an incumbent running, the District is also interesting because a majority of voters voted for Obama in 2008 and then voted for Republican candidate (and now governor) Bob McDonnell in the Virginia governor’s race in 2009.

Highlights from Maria:

  • She said voter turnout is expected to be low but that may swing in the GOP favor. Maria noted that at the polling place she was at, about 2 out of every 3 people picked up a Republican ballot.
  • As late as last night, both candidates were knocking on doors trying to garner support.
  • Hot topic in the district: Education
  • District Profile

Results update from Jimm: 30% of precincts are reporting for Senate District 31 . Jimm Phillips classified this as a swing district.

Barbara Favola (D)– 72.72%

Caren Merrick (R)–26.99%

Additional information about District 31

8:10 p.m. EST

Reporter Alex Murray just came on the show. Highlights of what she said:

  • Alex was able to sit with Republican candidate Tom Gordy while he called several voters on Monday.
  • “He was talking to several people for quite a long time–about 15 minutes.” According to Alex, Gordy seemed like he was really trying to talk to people and get to know them.
  • The energy level in the office was high.
  • Biggest issues in the District: jobs and the economy (much like the rest of the country)
  • According to Alex, jobs are a hot issue in Senate District 29 because there aren’t many available in the area. “They aren’t really that many well paying jobs in Prince William County. They jobs that do pay well are in Arlington and D.C.”

Updates from Jimm:

Election results are slowly coming in. No races to be called yet.

7:45 p.m. EST

Polls closed about 45 minutes ago. Our live broadcast starts in 15 minutes! Get ready!

Hosted by David Schultz and Erica Morrison, we will have four segments with different reporters who went out this week to talk to voters and candidates. The show will also have updates on election results from Jimm Phillips, polling analyst.

The first segment features reporter Alex Murray, who shadowed Virginia state Senate candidate Tom Gordy to see how he campaigned for votes in District 29.Gordy has a tough challenge, facing incumbent Charles Colgan, who has been in the state Senate for 35 years.

Additional coverage: “Colgan faces unexpectedly strong challenge in Prince William Senate race” via The Washington Post

6:40 p.m. EST

Reporter Vanessa Haces-Gonzatti talks about what it was like reporting from Arlington County this morning. For more, check out her and Arushi Sharma’s article on voters’ views.

It was a beautiful sunny and chilly morning in Ashton Heights, part of Arlington County in Virginia. Voters at Clarendon United Methodist Church, a suburban polling place, were rushing in and out before heading to work.

As many predicted, there was low voter turnout this morning. Little or no lines were the norm throughout rush hour.

Richard Mufley, the election chief for this voting center, said everything was running smoothly and that they weren’t expecting a lot of people.

“Jobs” and “economy” were the most thrown-around words as voters talked about the primary issues that concern them.

Transportation and other public services were also floating around the fall air, but with less emphasis.

What the Democratic and Republican party seem to be concerned about, though –the two-seat difference in the state Senate that could pair things up or give the upper hand to the latter– doesn’t appear to be on voters’ minds as much.

Apparently, partisan politics are not as essential in this race as the creation of jobs is.

5:30 p.m. EST

As Rachael noted earlier, the Twitter buzz about the Virginia elections has been minimal so far, but coverage by both local and major news outlets has been steady and informative. A recent Post article reported that turnout is expected to be low, but the stakes are high.

Read related articles from the Post about:

Top races and key issues

An overall election forecast

Redistricting causes confusion among voters

Also, read an article from the Huffington Post about Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, and what he stands to gain from the election.

And finally, an article from hyperlocal site Manassas Patch about how voter turnout has been steady.

Stay tuned for election results! With just an hour left until the polls close, excitement is running high in the newsroom.

-Kate Flynn

4:11 p.m. EST

I’m serving as the Observer’s wire editor and will be the Senior Elections Analyst for tonight’s live broadcast. I’ll be hard at work all night calling races as results come in – and I’ll try to put them into context with the election as a whole.

Along with the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate races, I’m also monitoring other elections that may tell us something about voters’ moods going into 2012. A ballot initiative in Ohio would overturn the state’s controversial law limiting unions’ collective bargaining rights, while a constitutional amendment in Mississippi would define a fertilized human egg as a person – a de facto ban on all abortions in the state.

The Ohio measure will give us a clue about whether voters in a crucial 2012 swing state are willing to go along with the Republican-led government’s policies – and it will serve as an indicator of whether Democrats will be able to gain traction on the issue going into next year. If Mississippi’s measure passes, it may give Republicans an incentive to introduce similar legislation in other states – especially the swing ones – to turn out their base in 2012.

Our analysis team is taking great care as we decide when to call races – we will wait until at least 50 percent of precincts report in and two reliable media sources have also project a winner.

In the meantime, I am doing extensive reading on the races Observer reporters covered today so I can give you the best possible analysis this evening. I look forward to our conversation!

-Jimm Phillips

3:25 p.m. EST
It’s still early – polls don’t close until 7 p.m. – so tweets on the Virginia election aren’t exactly flying.
But here’s what the (few) people tweeting are saying:
  • Low voter turnout so far (various Patch blogs)
  • Don’t forget to vote
  • Yay I voted!!!!
  • Voters confused where to vote because of redistricting
  • Will Republicans take the Senate?
At first I was afraid @auobserver was missing something since the Virginia elections tweets seem pretty quiet, but taking stock of who we’re following, I think we’re solid. To be sure the American Observer’s twitter feed keeps its finger on the pulse, I’m checking in regularly with #va2011, #vaelections, #vagov, and #vapolitics plus following various hyper-local Patch feeds, local newspaper feeds, and politicians’ feeds. I’m also checking in with Observer reporters in the field.
The twitterverse isn’t exactly hopping with excitement over the elections – yet. But since Virginia’s a swing state, expect to see the conversation to start moving quickly as the polls near closing.
Be sure to check @auobserver for updates throughout the day. I’m tweeting news from our reporters in the field
—Rachael Marcus
The American University School of Communication Graduate Program in Journalism works to prepare students for the realities of today's news and information space and the challenges of tomorrow. Find out more by visiting us online at

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