- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 6, 2009

Saturday is the last day Virginia residents can walk into their local registration office and request to vote early in Tuesday’s Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The turnout so far hasn’t been great, state elections officials said.

“It has been going very slow,” said Nancy Rodrigues, secretary of the state Board of Elections.

The race for the Democratic nomination has drawn intense media attention and the three candidates - state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and former state Delegate Brian J. Moran - have spent millions trying to get out the vote.

The winner will take on former Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, who accepted the Republican nomination for governor at the party’s convention late last month.

The statewide primary also will decide whether A. Michael Signer or Jody M. Wagner will be the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. Nominees for seats in the House of Delegates will be chosen in several Democratic races and in four Republican races Tuesday as well.

Only about half of the 12,159 people who had requested Democratic absentee ballots since voting began a little over a month ago had voted as of Thursday, Ms. Rodrigues said. Because the state has an open primary, registered voters can cast a ballot in either primary, but not both.

Primaries historically prompt a low turnout, Ms. Rodrigues said. And with only one out of every 10 voters casting absentee ballots during last year’s presidential election, the results aren’t expected to be higher for a statewide primary.

Elections officials are estimating only about 3 percent of the state’s 5.8 million voters will cast a ballot either absentee or at the polls.

Ms. Rodrigues also said Northern Virginia hasn’t seen high voter turnout, despite the great emphasis placed on that part of the state by the candidates’ campaigns.

As of Friday, turnout in the cities of Falls Church and Alexandria had been low. Only about 60 people had shown up to vote in Alexandria.

Turnout for a primary is very different than for a general election, said Ginny Franco, deputy registrar for the city of Alexandria.

“There are some people who say, ‘I’ll just let my party pick the nominee and I’ll vote in the general election,’ ” she said.

Some areas where there are contested nominations for delegate seats have seen a higher number of voters so far, Ms. Rodrigues said.

Voter registration offices will not issue any additional absentee ballots after Saturday, but voters can still turn in their ballots Monday. Officials will begin counting absentee ballots Tuesday.

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