A long, dull day

Published 8:53 pm Saturday, August 10, 2013

What would happen if they held an election and nobody came? While things were not quite that bad in the Aug. 6 special election to fill the seat of retired Sen. Harry Blevins in Virginia’s 14th Senate District, for the poll workers who sat all day, wondering when — or if — the next voter might appear, things must have seemed pretty bleak.

After votes from all 74 precincts in the 14th District had been counted, former Delegate John A. Cosgrove Jr., a Republican, had handily won the Senate seat, receiving 90.81 percent of the vote. In fact, he had handily won even before the first vote was cast, as Democratic challenger Kerry Holmes of Suffolk — unable to get the support of even his own party’s leaders — had pulled out of the race, appearing on the ballot only because his decision to withdraw had come too late for election officials to remove his name.

So, about one in 10 of the voters chose a man who had said he no longer wished to pursue the office. And the other nine of them voted for the only person left in the running. Judging from the results page on the Virginia State Board of Elections’ website, there were, apparently, no write-ins.

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Considering what could be graciously called a limited slate of choices, it is, perhaps, not too surprising that voter participation was — and we’ll be generous here — light. In fact, just 2,482 voters took part in this special election.

That works out to a little more than 33 voters per precinct, except that some precinct must have had nearly double that turnout to make up for the showing at the White Marsh Precinct in Suffolk, where just three voters took part in the election all day long. All three voted for Cosgrove, so there’ll be no hiding their choices for them.

Special elections are set by the governor, at his (or her) discretion. Gov. Bob McDonnell, if he can spare time from the ever-growing and increasingly disappointing ethical scandals in his administration, will now have to set a new special election to fill the 78th District House of Delegates seat vacated by Cosgrove’s move to the state Senate.

Considering their experience in the special election for the Senate seat, poll workers assigned to the one for the House of Delegates seat might want to bring along a good book. It’s likely to be a long, dull day.