Friday, September 30, 2022

A ‘narrowing of the gap’ between Dems and GOP: Here’s a look at 2020 poll numbers in the Historic Triangle

Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. (WYDaily file/Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. (WYDaily file/Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Williamsburg was not the only locality in the Historic Triangle to vote Democrat this year.

James City County residents voted for Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, according to the unofficial results from the Virginia Department of Elections’ website.

Screenshot of the President and Vice President election results for James City County. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Elections’ website)
Screenshot of the presidential election results for James City County. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Elections’ website)

James City County actually voted red in 2016 opting for then Republican candidate Donald Trump instead of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

2016 presidential election results for the Historic Triangle:

  • James City County:
    • Clinton (19,105)
    • Trump (21,306)
  • Williamsburg:
    • Clinton (5,206)
    • Trump (1,925)
  • York County:
    • Clinton (12,999)
    • Trump (18,837)

John McGlennon, professor of government and public policy at William & Mary, said 2020 is the first election year in a long time when a majority of the vote in the Historic Triangle favored the Democratic Party.

“We’ve seen a steady narrowing of the gap between Democrats and the Republicans,” he said.

While York County has traditionally supported the Republican Party, in more recent years, James City County has grown increasingly more Democratic, with Williamsburg sticking to voting blue.

Screenshot of the President and Vice President election results for York County. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Elections’ website)
Screenshot of the presidential election results for York County. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Elections’ website)

However, there was also a time when Williamsburg came close to breaking its voting tradition.

Indeed Bush lost the city in 2004, but the margin was only 150 votes.

So why the change in voting patterns?

Sudie Watkins, president of the League of Women Voters of the Williamsburg Area, said the organization does not keep track of voting patterns in the Historic Triangle nor do they compare numbers.

“The one thing we did notice is we really did have a good turnout,” she said, adding the nonpartisan organization does not back any candidates. “We do take some positions on things but we don’t back any party or candidates.”

Watkins was unsure why James City County residents voted blue this year compared to the 2016 presidential elections.

“I guess I don’t really have any idea with that and why they are switching,” she said. “Voters change over the years so I really don’t know why on that.”

Related Story: Absentee, early in-person voting in the Historic Triangle — and what’s going on so far this Election Day

McGlennon, on the other hand, had a good guess.

“More white voters with a college education,” he said.

He added the flip can also be attributed to a national increase in minority participation in elections.

“While I didn’t see that specifically, I believe that to be the case here,” he said.

McGlennon said voter registration in Williamsburg dropped compared to last year. He said he suspected the reason was more William & Mary students were registering in their own hometowns, rather than in Williamsburg, because of the pandemic.

Screenshot of the President and Vice President election results for City of Williamsburg. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Elections’ website)
Screenshot of the presidential election results for City of Williamsburg. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Elections’ website)

In James City County, 61,521 people registered to vote this year compared to 45,762 in 2016, said Dianna Moorman, voter registrar for the county, in a statement from last week.

In a prepared statement Tuesday prior to the interview with Watkins, MaryAnn Simpson from the LWV Williamsburg chapter, said their goal has “always been” to get people registered to vote and get the voters involved.

“And with over 75% turnout in this year’s election, kudos go to League members who pitched in and helped make sure voters had applications, information and active interest in participation,” she noted. “Salutes go to the countless members who worked as poll workers at the precincts.”

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