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Virginia’s turnout this year was nearly double what it was in 2016

It’s the latest state to see a surge in turnout during the primary.

People vote in the Super Tuesday primary in Arlington, Virginia, on March 3, 2020.
Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Virginia’s Democratic primary turnout this year was nearly double what the state saw in 2016.

This cycle, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, 1,324,325 people had headed to the polls in Virginia — a big uptick from the 2016 Democratic primary, when 780,000 people did the same.

Virginia is just the latest state where voter turnout soared in the Democratic primary this year: South Carolina, too, saw a major increase over the 2016 primary. At least 524,000 voters submitted ballots in the state in 2020, compared to 371,000 in 2016.

These gains mark a contrast with the first race of the primary. The turnout in the Iowa caucuses was ultimately disappointing, and only slightly higher than the state’s 2016 benchmark. As Anya van Wagtendonk wrote for Vox, the races that have taken place since have all seen strong engagement in different respects:

In New Hampshire, a total of 300,622 ballots were cast, besting the previous record of 288,672 votes in 2008. And in the Nevada caucuses, the early turnout alone nearly beat the total turnout for 2016; all told, almost 100,000 people caucused.

These gains indicate that Democrats — at least in some states so far — are quite enthusiastic about the primary this year. It’s not yet clear if this will translate to similar boosts in turnout during the general election, and such implications are often tough to parse, Slate’s Molly Olmstead explains:

Ultimately, there’s just not enough data to know if there’s a real relationship between primary and general election turnout.

Former Vice President Joe Biden ended up winning Virginia, one of at least seven states he picked up on Tuesday night. All told, based on the results as of publish time, Biden had secured 53 percent of the vote, Bernie Sanders won 23 percent, and Elizabeth Warren captured 11 percent.