By Rachel Boose
Note: Glenn Youngkin won Virginia’s gubernatorial race with 50.8 percent of the vote on Tuesday.
RICHMOND, Va. – In a tight race for governor, Democrats in Virginia are pushing every voter they can get to the polls. With just two days before the election, Democrats were rallying volunteers to help get out the vote, especially in areas where they know they have support.
“I think most people probably know who they’re gonna vote for,” Gov. Ralph Northam said on Sunday at a kick-off location for canvassers in Richmond. “So the most important thing between now and Tuesday is to go knock on doors, make phone calls, and if they haven’t already voted to strongly encourage them to get to the polls.”
Leslie Naranjo, a 63-year-old from Richmond, volunteered to canvass for the Democrats because she said this election is important to protect progress made over the last few years. Citing the minimum wage increase passed by the House of Delegates earlier this year, as well as addressing inequity in housing, racism in the legal system, and voter rights, Naranjo said, “I think we’re moving in a very positive direction. And I don’t want to see us slowed down for another generation.”
Naranjo calls herself a “lifelong Democrat” and has canvassed multiple times this election. She also campaigned for President Obama in Virginia in 2008 and 2012. To her, canvassing is about educating voters and helping them vote, regardless of party.
“I’m not there to pick a fight. I’m there to educate,” she said. “If they don’t want to tell me who they’re gonna vote for, that’s fine. I’m kind of just this walking kiosk of information.”
On Sunday, Naranjo had a list of 40 doors to knock on in Richmond, all flagged by the Virginia Democrats as likely voters based on past voting records. While Virginia doesn’t require voters to register with a party to vote in primary elections, the Democrats have spent decades tracking voters’ histories and identifying their supporters.
On Saturday before the election, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, deputy campaign manager on former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s 2013 campaign and served as Secretary of the Commonwealth under McAuliffe, spoke with students from The Wash at the state Democratic office in Richmond.
Stoney said, “We watch your history, what primaries you voted in, what elections you voted in, we tally all that up and throw that into a model that shows us who we should be targeting in this election.” That means targeting voters in Richmond, Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, Stoney said, those who voted in previous presidential elections but may be less eager to vote in an off-off year election.
With polls in the last week showing McAuliffe and Youngkin within the margin of error of each other in the gubernatorial race, Democrats hoped that their targeted get-out-the-vote efforts give them an advantage over Republicans.
On Saturday, Andrew Whitley, executive director for the Virginia Democrats, told The Wash, “We have a really good ground game and we do not see that from the Republican side. You know, we don’t see that kind of volunteer activity…So I think it’s gonna be a game-changer.”
In addition to canvassing, Naranjo is also planning to help people she knows get to the polls on Tuesday. She is a caregiver for someone, so has difficulty getting to the polls but plans to take her to vote on Tuesday. Naranjo’s message to voters as she headed out to canvass was simple; “No. 1, it’s important to vote no matter who you’re going to vote for…elections like this show that every single vote counts. Don’t think your vote is not going to count.”