IW votes Trump, but Surry goes blue

Published 6:45 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2020

In the races for president, U.S. Senate and the House, Isle of Wight chose Republican candidates.

But in Virginia and nationally, Democrats successfully kept or turned several key states blue, giving former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, the apparent win in an election that President Donald Trump had not conceded as of Nov. 10.

The Associated Press and other major news organizations called the race for Biden on Nov. 7, citing the fact that the number of votes yet to be counted in several states were unlikely to tip the election in favor of Trump. The new president-elect delivered a formal victory speech that evening in Delaware.

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In statements and social media posts, indications were Trump would not concede without exhausting all available legal challenges to dispute the election results in several states.

As of noon on Nov. 9, with all precincts reporting, 58.4% of Isle of Wight voters cast their ballot for Trump, while 40% voted for Biden and 1.4% cast a ballot for Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen. Less than 1%, or 22 of the 23,456 people who cast presidential votes, chose to write in a candidate.

Isle of Wight voters similarly gave overwhelming support for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Daniel Gade, who challenged incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Warner. Voters cast 57.9% of their ballots for Gade, a combat-wounded Army veteran, versus 41.9% for Warner, a former governor of Virginia who was first elected to Congress in 2008.

Republican John W. Collick Jr. challenged incumbent U.S. House Rep. Bobby Scott, a Democrat, who has served in Congress since 1993, representing the 3rd Congressional District, which encompasses all of Isle of Wight County and all or parts of seven other Hampton Roads localities. Collick received 58.9% of Isle of Wight votes versus Scott, who received 40.9%.

Isle of Wight voters also overwhelmingly supported two state constitutional amendments. Amendment one asked voters to decide if Virginia should establish a redistricting commission to redraw congressional and state legislative districts; 72.1% of local voters said yes and 27.9% said no. On the second constitutional amendment question, 86.3% said yes to allowing a state tax exemption for a vehicle that is owned by military members and veterans who have a 100% service-connected permanent and total disability.

Statewide, 53.9% of Virginia voters chose Biden and 44.1% chose Trump. In the 3rd Congressional District, 66.7% voted for Biden and 31.3% went for Trump. In the 4th Congressional District, 61.2% of the vote was for Biden and 31.7% voted for Trump. For the Senate, 55.8% of statewide voters chose Warner and 44% chose Gade. For the area’s two House races, Scott was reelected with 68.1% of the vote versus Collick, who got 31.6%. McEachin received 61.2% while challenger Benjamin received 38.6%, according to results reported by the Virginia Department of Elections.

Statewide, voters also overwhelmingly passed the two constitutional amendments, with 65.6% voting yes on the redistricting question and 86.1% voting yes on the vehicle tax exemption for disabled military veterans.

According to Isle of Wight County Registrar Lisa Betterton, “early voting and Election Day voting went very smoothly. Any problems that were encountered were small and handled quickly.”

Betterton said the county had 140 paid election officers working on Nov. 3. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials urged voters to cast their ballots early in person or by mail. Voters apparently heeded the advice, as almost half of the county’s voters cast their ballots early, Betterton said. That experience made Election Day smoother, said Betterton, who has been the county’s general registrar and director of elections for almost 15 years.

“My staff and I work long days, nights, and weekends to ensure that our voters have a pleasant voting experience,” Betterton said in an email. “What I like best about my role is the positive feedback from the voters. When they tell us how much they appreciate what we do, that makes us feel like all of our hard work has paid off.”

Surry goes blue

In contrast, with Isle of Wight voters, Surry County voters went blue, supporting Democratic candidates. The county’s eight precincts reported just after 8 p.m. on Election Day that Biden carried the county with 53.6% of the vote versus Trump, who received 45.2%. Libertarian Jo Jorgensen received less than 1% of votes cast, and nine people out of 4,471 who cast a presidential vote chose to write in a candidate.

In the race for Senate, Warner received 55.4% of Surry’s votes and Gade received 44.5%.

Surry is part of the 4th Congressional District, which includes 15 other localities. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, a Democrat, received 54.1% of votes cast, versus Republican challenger Leon Benjamin Sr., who received 45.6%. McEachin was first elected to the House in 2016. He is a former member of Virginia’s House of Delegates and the state Senate. Benjamin is a military veteran and senior pastor of a Richmond-based church.

On the redistricting amendment, 65.4% of Surry voters supported the measure and 34.5% were opposed, while 87.8% of Surry voters supported the amendment for the tax exemption for vehicles owned by military veterans.

Early voting also made Election Day smoother in Surry, said Registrar and Director of Elections Sharna’ White.

“The voting experience here in Surry County has been overwhelmingly positive from what I hear from the citizens,” White said in an email. “My staff and myself worked very hard to ensure that we were efficient at checking in early voters, processing mail in ballots, all while maintaining safety and sanitation standards using CDC recommendations regarding COVID. The voters were in and out within a few minutes.”

In addition to herself, White said her office has one part-time deputy registrar, a temporary assistant hired for the 2020 election and 45 officers of election for Election Day to support voting operations.

At the height of the pandemic, some voting officials had expressed concern about having enough poll workers. White said she initially had concerns about that issue as too, but “after comparing the numbers of early voters and vote by mail voters against the total registered voters in the county, we felt confident that our officials would be able to handle the number of voters on Election Day.”

White has been registrar since August 2018 “and I have every expectation of continuing the great work of my predecessors while adapting to the various technological changes, procedural changes, and laws passed by the State/State Board of Elections.”

“I love and enjoy what I do and I serve great citizens in Surry County; one of the most important tasks to accomplish is to ensure that voters are not only educated about the election processes, but that my staff and I make the election processes as transparent as possible,” White continued. “I’d rather them come to me, the source, to get the most current and up to date information about any topic of voter concern. She also expressed pride and appreciation for her coworkers and community.

“I could not be employed by and serve a better group of people,” White said.

Officials are expected to certify Virginia’s vote tallies on Nov. 16.