Virginia's debut as a swing state comes to a head Tuesday when voters finally weigh in on the presidential race and the state's marquee U.S. Senate contest.
For the first time in modern history, Virginia is up for grabs on Election Day. For the past year, that meant constant attention from the presidential candidates, an infusion of spending from outside political groups and a deluge of attack ads on TV.
Both President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney circled Virginia on the election map from the start, hoping to capture the state's 13 electoral votes en route to winning the White House. In doing so, they elevated an already heavily anticipated Senate matchup between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen, two former governors whose fates are now largely tied to their party's standard bearers.
|Virginia votes Tuesday|
|Voting begins: 6 a.m.|
|Voting ends: 7 p.m.|
|Anyone in line to vote by 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote.|
|Lines are longest immediately before and after work hours.|
|For information on polling places and necessary ID, go to www.sbe.virginia.gov.|
The presidential race and the Senate contest remain too close to call in Virginia. Those narrow margins and the state's new role as a battleground that could decide not only the race for the White House but who controls the U.S. Senate has election officials predicting that turnout could reach the historic levels of 2008, when Obama became the first Democratic presidential contender in nearly half a century to carry the Old Dominion.
In Prince William County, one of the state's most heavily contested communities, the number of absentee ballots handed out this year matched numbers in 2008. And Arlington County shattered a record when 3,500 individuals cast early ballots on the final day of in-person absentee voting Saturday, 1,400 more than the previous high.
In Fairfax County, where one in seven Virginians reside, voter registration jumped from 665,000 in 2008 to 738,000 this year.
Virginians will have to adhere to a new ID law that has created some confusion but so far few problems for those who have already voted. For the first time, voters who lack proper identification must cast a provisional ballot that would only be counted once the voter returns with proper ID. Democrats charged that the new rules were a Republican effort to block some voters from participating.
"People seem to think they need more than one or a photo ID," said Linda Lindberg, Arlington's general registrar. "But for the most part, there have been no issues. We didn't have a single person not show up without an ID. No one has had to turn in a provisional ballot yet."