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US midterms: Virginia swings to Democrats with Charlottesville rejecting Trump
Seven out of 11 districts in Virginia elected a Democratic House representative in Tuesday's midterm elections. Voter turnout was estimated at a massive 60 percent – higher than the average 45 percent in such contests. In Charlottesville, scene of violent neo-Nazi protests in 2017, people flocked to the polling booths to show their discontent with US President Donald Trumps’s policies.
“This is probably the most important election in my lifetime,” says Mark Schwartz, a professor with Virginia University and a volunteer for Car2Vote, a “nonpartisan transportation assistance” for people without cars or access to public transport to go and cast their ballot.
The reason Schwartz volunteered is because “statistically” poorer people are more inclined to vote Democrat and “the Republican Party has gone off the rails and become a party that is anti-democratic, in the small-d sense, against democracy".
“It has become a party of racial division and it is become a party that serves the interests only of a handful of billionaires in the US,” he says.
Referendum on Trump
But not everybody agrees as was apparent as the voting was taking place.
Outside one polling station, a few kilometres outside Charlottesville, Republican activist Cindy Burkett hopes that her party can cling to power in both houses.
“We are starting to make a rebound on our unemployment numbers, we are also rebounding on the concern about immigration, wages, so and we really do think that this is sort of a referendum on President Trump,” she says.
Retaining both houses of Congress is her dream. “Our economy will go through the roof. Stock markets would be great. People’s wages would go up. There isn’t any downside to having these candidates on our side. Our concern on the other side is if taxes have to go back up. The win would mean not just two years of increased productivity but it would mean years and years of productivity.”
But overnight her hopes were dashed. Out of the 11 districts in Virginia, only four went to the Republicans. Two even flipped sides, producing Democratic House representatives.
The high turnout may have been a factor in tipping the balance in the Democrats' favour.
“It is because of the importance of the elections,” says Richard Randolph, election supervisor for the district of Albemarle County.
“Because a lot of people are very concerned with the direction of the United States right now on a national level and they are expressing their concerns by voting actively in support of candidates that are also concerned about the direction of the US."
Randolph believes the Republicans would have abused their position if they had won hte House.
“If we had ended up with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives after this election, it would have been quite likely that we’ll have a legislation that suppresses people’s ability to vote, that restricts people’s ability to do legal protest, that shifts income even more to the rich, and all of these things will make America a much worse place to live,” he says.
But for now he can relax.