I Voted

I voted this morning at my polling place in South Riding, Virginia. If you are a U.S. citizen who is eligible to vote, you should go to the polls today too.

There are many important races all across the nation today. Here in Loudoun County, Virginia, we are voting for U.S. Senator, U.S. House of Representatives, two Virginia constitutional amendments, and two local ballot issues.

Take the time to research the candidates and issues on your ballot and make informed choices. Don’t let anybody tell you that your vote doesn’t matter. Don’t let anybody tell you that your choice is wrong. No informed vote is a wasted vote.

And let’s respect one another. I’ve made my choices—and I encourage you to read my reasons why—and you are free to make yours. I may not agree with you, but as long as you have seriously considered your choices, I respect them. I hope you’ll offer me the same courtesy in return.

Please come back to Off on a Tangent this evening for live results from the races that I am following.

One of the stranger trends in American elections is the adoption of various forms of early voting. It has always been possible to get an absentee ballot that can be cast by mail, which is important for those who are traveling, deployed, have mobility issues, or are otherwise unable to get to the polls on election day. But in addition to the traditional absentee ballot, in many states you can now cast an in-person ballot weeks—sometimes even months—before the purported day of the election.

The argument in favor of these accommodations is that it makes it easier for more people to vote . . . and, in and of itself, that’s probably a good thing (as long as we take reasonable steps to ensure the integrity of the ballot and the identity of the voter). But it also presents a serious problem that gets far too little attention.

Consider, for example, the voters who cast a ballot for now-President Donald Trump (R) on or before October 6, 2016. The next day, the infamous Access Hollywood tape was released, with audio of Trump’s crass comments about how, “When you’re a star, [women] let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” Voters after October 7 had this new information about Trump, which may have influenced some of their decisions. In a very real way, voters who had already cast their ballots were at a disadvantage.

If Trump’s comments had changed their minds, in some states they were stuck. Their ballot was already irreparably cast. In some states there are ways to change an early ballot, but it is not always easy, and many did not even know they had the option . . . or how to use it. . . . Continued

Starting this year, I am making brief recommendations for voters in all contested local races in Loudoun County, Virginia, and all contested state- and federal-level races in Virginia. These are in addition to the more in-depth, long-form endorsement articles for each race that appears on my own ballot.

Recommendations appear below for nine of Virginia’s eleven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Excluded is the Third District, which is uncontested, and the Tenth District, which is my own district and is therefore covered by a long-form endorsement. Additionally, there is a special election for the Eighth District of the Virginia House of Delegates. . . . Continued

Seal of the U.S. Senate
Seal of the U.S. Senate

In the race to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States Senate, incumbent Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) is challenged by Prince William County Board Chairman Corey Stewart (R) and Matt Waters (L). Kaine was first elected to the Senate in 2012 and is serving his first term. He had previously served one term as Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Each of the fifty states have two seats in the Senate, for a total of one hundred seats. There is no representation, voting or non-voting, for U.S. territories or the District of Columbia. Senators serve six-year terms, and elections are held on a staggered schedule with roughly one-third of the Senate up for election every two years. This year, thirty-three seats are in contention, with an additional two up for special elections.

The Republican Party currently holds a 51-47 majority over the Democratic Party in the Senate. Two seats are held by independents who caucus with the Democratic Party, giving the Democrats an effective 49-seat minority. Currently, both of Virginia’s Senate seats are held by Democrats. . . . Continued

Seal of the U.S. House of Representatives
Seal of the U.S. House

In the race to represent Virginia’s Tenth District in the United States House of Representatives, incumbent Representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA 10th) is seeking reelection and is challenged by Virginia Senator Jennifer Wexton (D-VA 33rd).

The Tenth District encompasses Clarke County, Frederick County, Loudoun County, the cities of Manassas and Winchester, and parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties. Comstock was first elected in 2014 and is nearing the end of her second term.

All seats in the House of Representatives are up for election every two years. There are 435 seats, representing each of the fifty states in rough proportion to their population as recorded in the most recent national census. There are an additional six non-voting delegate seats representing U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.

The Republican Party currently holds a 235-193 majority over the Democratic Party in the House, and seven seats are vacant. Virginia has eleven seats in the House, with seven held by Republicans and four held by Democrats. . . . Continued