Democratic primaries for statewide and House races will be held this coming Tuesday.

ROANOKE ─ Temperatures in Roanoke reached 90 degrees on Saturday, but that didn’t stop motivated voters from stopping by the city’s Office of Voter Registration and Elections to make their voices heard. In fact, an election official indicated that turnout on Saturday was the highest it had been throughout the entire early voting period that started back on April 23. 

Despite the uptick in voters visiting the nondescript downtown office, there were no lines in the middle of the day. Voters were able to cast their ballots and leave within a matter of minutes, assuming they already had their minds made up. Curbside voting was also offered. 

Election Day for the Democratic primary for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general is June 8. Virginia House primaries will also be held that day.

Why Voting Early Mattered to Voters

Forty-two-year-old Roanoke resident Revonda Barber had planned on waiting until Tuesday to cast her ballot, but was convinced by acquaintances to vote early. “I think it’s important we not make excuses,” she said. “It’s important to get the vote in early.”

Saturday was the first time 18-year-old Tallulah Costa ever voted. Her excitement over her first election drove her decision to vote early. She was joined by her mother, LeeRay Costa.

Tiara Gill voted early because she wanted to beat the crowds on Tuesday. “I’m very opinionated and want to see a lot of changes in this city and state. It was very important that I cast my vote so my voice can be heard,” she said. 

Cecil and Eunice Morrison took advantage of curbside voting. Eunice walks with a cane. The ease of voting from her truck was the motivating factor behind her desire to vote early. “I like early voting because it’s convenient and there isn’t a rush,” she said.

Lee Hill voted on the first day of early voting. He spent Saturday campaigning exactly 40 feet from the tent where election officials facilitated curbside voting. The 25-year veteran of the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office hopes to secure the Democratic nomination to lead the very office he has served in. 

What Issues Were Top of Mind

Fairness was the most important issue for Hill when he voted.

“I want people who will be fair in government. It shouldn’t be so one-sided. People need help and assistance,” he said.

Antonio Hash also spent his Saturday campaigning. Like Lee, he is running to secure the Democratic nomination for sheriff of the City of Roanoke. After examining all of the statewide candidates, he said he’s pleased to see that all of them are keeping Virginian’s wallets in mind as they present their post-COVID recovery plans. 

“I like the fact the candidates are keeping the economic structure of the state in mind. People are still struggling, especially working mothers. Childcare is so expensive. Working mothers often end up putting all of their resources into childcare,” the 13-year law enforcement veteran said. 

LeeRay’s vote was impacted by the candidates she perceived as being most responsible on environmental and civil rights issues. 

Governor

While Barber gave each of the candidates for governor a close look, she felt that former governor Terry McAuliffe was by far the best out of the five. In her estimation, McAuliffe’s first term from 2014 to 2018 was successful.

“Name recognition means a lot. We need all the pull we can get right now at the state level,” she said. 

As for the other two statewide elections, she said she had yet to make up her mind on which candidates she would be voting for. 

Cecil cast his ballot for McAuliffe based on the way he presents himself.

“He seems like he’s a hard and dedicated worker,” he observed. 

Eunice added that McAuliffe’s gubernatorial experience puts her mind at ease.

“We don’t need someone who has to learn what to do. He already knows,” she stressed. 

Former member of the Virginia House of Delegates Jennifer Carroll Foy secured Tulula’s vote because she feels Foy is the most progressive candidate.

“I think she’s going to do much more than McAuliffe in office,” she said. 

Additionally, the fact that Foy played a part in Virginia’s passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in 2020 means a lot to Tulula.

“It shows she supports women’s rights and achieving equal pay,” she said. 

LeeRay was excited to also vote for Foy because, if elected, she will be the country’s first African American female governor.

“It would be a huge achievement. I think she will be able to represent a lot of people’s interests that aren’t normally represented in government the way they should be,” she said. 

Lieutenant Governor

Sam Rasoul, who represents Roanoke in the Virginia House of Delegates, has both Cecil and Eunice’s vote for lieutenant governor. 

Tulula also voted for Rasoul. His views on environmental issues made her vote for him a no brainer. “He’s a supporter of the Green New Deal, which hasn’t yet been passed here in Virginia. I’m hopeful that if he gets elected, we’ll get some more radical climate policy passed,” she said. 

LeeRay echoed her daughter’s endorsement of Rasoul. “He’s our hometown boy. I’m so thrilled he is running. He’s someone who can talk across the aisle and work with people from very different backgrounds. I think that’s important because our state is very split,” she said. 

Gill decided to vote for Andria McCellan because she feels McCellan represents the change she wants to see in Richmond. “We need a change in that position. I’m interested in seeing how she will apply some of the things she’s running on,” she said of the Norfolk City Council member.

Aila Boyd is a Virginia-based journalist and educator. She holds an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University. Her writing has received five awards from the Virginia Press Association.