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Absentee voting in Virginia on pace to rival 2016 numbers

Absentee voting in Virginia on pace to rival 2016 numbers
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Absentee ballot voting in Virginia this year is on pace to rival numbers from 2016, according to an analysis by Virginia Public Access Project released on Friday.

Almost 78,000 residents have cast a ballot since early voting began on Sept. 15, more than double the amount who did so during last year's gubernatorial election, the group found. In the 2014 midterms, state voters cast 123,221 absentee ballots.

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But with more than 2 1/2 weeks to go before the Nov. 6 midterm elections, the number of early ballots may come close to the 496,452 absentee votes cast in 2016.

“It’s actually quite shocking,” Richard Keech, deputy director of the elections office in Loudoun County, told The Washington Post. “This would be the first time without a president on the ballot that we’ve seen this kind of increase."

Loudoun County has seen a 239 percent rise in absentee voting this year, with 11,106 ballots either already cast or mailed to voters so far.

The analysis showed early voting is particularly high in tight House races, especially in Virginia’s 2nd, 5th and 7th Congressional Districts.

The numbers indicate a hyper-charged electorate heading into a midterm election that will determine which party controls the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Hot button issues such as immigration, health care and Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMellman: The triumph of partisanship Pavlich: Where is Brett Kavanaugh’s apology? Trump tweets about Diwali, draws criticism for not mentioning Hindus in initial posts MORE’s confirmation have ignited enthusiasm across the U.S. political spectrum, and multiple polls show many voters are treating the midterm elections as a referendum on President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Graham backs bill to protect Mueller Denham loses GOP seat in California MORE.

An anti-Trump wave swept Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) into office last year by a larger-than-expected margin and almost brought the Democrats into the majority in the Virginia House of Delegates.