VCC Magazine Winter 2018

V irginia C apitol C onnections , W inter 2018 8 Virginia’s political culture is changing so fast that the nearly everyone is struggling to keep up. The 15-seat gain by Democrats in the House of Delegates—one of the largest single-election increases in decades—surprised experienced politicians and political observers from across the state. In addition, Virginians elected Ralph Northam governor with a 9-percentage point margin, a large increase from Terry McAuliffe’s 2.5-point victory margin four years earlier. The three Democratic statewide victories in 2017 extended the streak of defeats for Republicans, who last won a statewide election in 2009. At the center of this political realignment stands the changing population of Virginia. A cartogram, which adjusts the size of cities and counties to take account of the numbers of votes cast in the 2017 gubernatorial election, demonstrates this change visually. The geographic contortions in a cartogram offer sharp contrasts from the traditional acre-based maps, where large rural areas appear to dominate the much more populous, but smaller in size, cities and suburban counties where more voters reside. This cartogram, which reshapesVirginia into a pair of scissors with the large population loops of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, does not show which candidate won which jurisdiction. Rather it offers an image of electoral trends by comparing Northam’s margin of support to that of Tim Kaine, the victorious Democratic candidate for governor in 2005 (Kaine won a subsequent election to the U.S. Senate in 2012). The light blue areas show where Democratic support increased between 2005 and 2017, with the areas where it is increasing a lot colored darker blue. The light red areas show where Republican support is increasing, with the dark red areas illustrating where it has increased a lot. What were once the state’s largest reliably conservative jurisdictions, including Chesterfield County outside Richmond and Virginia Beach in Hampton Roads, are trending Democratic. The large Democratic majorities that already existed a dozen years ago in northern Virginia, Richmond and Newport News have been getting even more Democratic. In Virginia’s off-year state elections, Democrats normally struggle to build enthusiasm among younger and minority voters, who are less likely to vote in state contests than they were in the presidential election a year earlier. In 2017, Democrats actually won the governor’s office by a larger margin than the Democratic presidential ticket won the state a year earlier. Northam’s roughly 9-point margin Farnsworth hanna People Vote, Acres Don’t: Virginia’s 2017 Election in Perspective By Stephen J. Farnsworth and Stephen Hanna Cartogram of Gubernatorial Election Voting Trends: 2005 - 2017 increase of 0.1 to 5 increase of 5.1 to 10 decline of 0.1 to 5 decline of 5.1 to 10 increase greater than 10 decline greater than 10 Support for Democratic Candidates Percentage Point Change in Source: Electoral data are from the Virginia State Board of Elections website ( . Map by Stephen P. Hanna, UMW Geography Department. Counties and independent cities are scaled by the number of votes cast in 2017. For example, Fairfax County (375,630 votes) is three times the size of Loudoun County(117,290 votes). Fairfax Chester eld Richmond Arlington Loudoun Virginia Beach Buchanan Tazewell Manassas Park