Virginia’s “off-off-year” elections typically have low voter turnout – usually less than 30%. But in 2019’s off-off-year election, turnout reached nearly 40%, breaking records statewide for an election in which there were no presidential, gubernatorial or congressional races on the ballot.
In Prince William County, where there were several high-profile state and local elections, voter turnout reached 40.7%, or 111,000 voters, according to the county’s office of elections. That was an increase compared to 2015, the last off-off-year election, when voter turnout in the county was 27%, or 66,700 voters.
Matt Wilson, spokesman for county’s office of elections, said Tuesday’s big turnout is part of larger trend that started after the 2016 presidential election.
“Ever since 2016, you can basically add 10% to every election,” Wilson said. “The only real conclusion we can come to is, 2016 happened and people got riled up.”
Democrats made big gains locally in the Nov. 5 contest, picking up three seats on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, giving them a 5-3 majority for the first time in a generation.
Democrat Ann Wheeler was elected at-large chair and will replace outgoing Republican Chairman Corey Stewart as the head of the county board.
On the Prince William County School Board, candidates endorsed by Democrats picked up two seats, increasing their majority to 7-to-1, and incumbent Chairman Dr. Babur Lateef was re-elected to a full term after winning a special election in 2018.
Democrat Amy Ashworth was elected commonwealth’s attorney for Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park, succeeding the state’s longest-serving prosecutor Paul Ebert (D). Republican incumbent Sheriff Glen Hill narrowly beat his Democratic opponent Josh King by just more than 700 votes.
Wilson said, in terms of turnout, he expects more of the same in next year’s presidential election.
“In 2016, we ended up with turnout in the high 60s. I wouldn’t be shocked if we were well into the 80s in 2020,” Wilson said.