Henrico County VA

Henrico voters face long lines at precincts

But registrar doesn't expect higher turnout than 2008
UPDATED: 2:30 P.M. – Voting in Henrico County – viewed as one of several key swing counties in the nation in today's presidential election – was brisk this morning and early afternoon, with longer than normal lines reported countywide and many voters waiting an hour or more to cast their ballots.

But despite the crowds, Henrico Registrar Mark Coakley told the Citizen that he doesn't expect voter turnout today to exceed the county's 79.8 percent turnout rate in the 2008 presidential election.

That year, morning rain kept turnout slightly lower early in the day. Today, voters had only cold temperatures to deal with as they went to the polls. The morning rush should reduce the length of lines at Henrico's 92 precincts this evening, Coakley said.

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney identified Henrico early in this campaign as the key swing county in Virginia, the potential key state in the election. Obama won the county by nearly 19,000 votes four years ago, turning a historically red county blue. His victory here that year was due in large part to his 23,000-vote advantage over Republican John McCain in the Fairfield and Varina districts.

For Romney to paint Henrico red today, he'll likely need to cut into Obama's margins in those two districts and attract more voters in the traditionally Republican Three Chopt and Tuckahoe districts, where McCain won by slightly less than 9,000 votes in 2008.

If Romney's margins in those two district offset Obama's margins in Fairfield and Varina, then the county's vote could come down to the Brookland District – which McCain won four years ago by just 42 votes out of the 37,219 cast there.

This is the first presidential election since the county shifted the lines of its magisterial districts slightly in 2011, following the 2010 U.S. census.

Only minor voting issues had been reported in Henrico as of 1:45 p.m. today. Power flickered at two precincts in the Fairfield District this morning, but Dominion Power crews quickly restored it and no votes were lost, Coakley said.

The number of absentee voters in the county was lower this year than in 2008 by about 4,000, Coakley said. But, at about 16,000, "it's still high," he said.

Henrico voters today also are helping select a replacement for outgoing U.S. Senator Jim Webb in a race contesting former governors George Allen, a Republican, and Tim Kaine, a Democrat. Webb defeated Allen six years ago to claim the seat.

Voters in the western portion of Henrico also are choosing between Republican incumbent Eric Cantor and Democrat Wayne Powell in the race for the 7th District U.S. House of Representatives seat, while voters in the eastern part of the county are choosing between Democratic incumbent Bobby Scott and Republican challenger Dean Longo.

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